Irma batters Florida, at least 5 dead

| | Washington

Hurricane Irma that pummelled Florida all through Sunday and early Monday has claimed at least five lives, plunged nearly six million homes in darkness and remained a major risk for flash floods despite weakening to a tropical storm.

The most powerful hurricane in recent memory that prompted the authorities to order a record evacuation of more than six million people has left a vast trail of devastation across the ‘Sunshine State’.

Irma, which made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with 140 miles per hour winds with a storm surge of 10 feet, was reported to have weakened by Monday morning to Category 1 storm. It later dropped below 75 miles per hour and was classified as a tropical storm.

The diminished power notwithstanding, authorities said Irma still retained its potential for torrential rains and flash floods as the storm was set to move through northwest Florida into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

After having claimed at least 27 lives in a host of Caribbean islands before hammering Florida, reports put the death toll in the State at five.

A sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer were both killed in a car accident in Hardee County, about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, ABC News reported. A man died in Key West after he lost control amid the high winds. Another death was reported from a car crash near Orlando.

“On the forecast track, the center of Irma will move near the northwestern coast of the Florida Peninsula this morning, cross the eastern Florida Panhandle into southern Georgia this afternoon, and move through southwestern Georgia and eastern Alabama tonight and Tuesday,” the National Hurricane Centre said in a Monday morning update.

Miami on Florida’s east coast and Naples on the west coast were among the worst hit by Irma. Naples was ripped by wind speeds of 140 miles an hour and 12 inches of rain. Miami was struck by wind gusts of nearly 100 miles an hour that saw two giant construction cranes collapse.

There was no immediate word on how soon Florida would be able to restore normalcy with power supply having been knocked out to more than six million homes.

FPL, the biggest power company in Florida, said the company’s system will need to be rebuilt, particularly in the western part of the state. “That restoration process will be measured in weeks, not days,” a top executive commented. The utility’s two nuclear plants, however, were reported safe.

As many as 155,000 Floridians were staying put in more than 570 public shelters opened by the State Government. Many of them could think in terms of moving back only after restoration of power supply.

The Miami International Airport authorities spoke of “sustained significant water damage”.

President Donald Trump signed a disaster declaration late Sunday in a bid to speed up federal funding to damaged areas in Florida and reimburse the State Government and local communities. 



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