Hurricane Irma leaves Florida ‘powerless’, moves north

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Washington, Sep 11 (IANS) Hurricane Irma on Monday weakened to a Category 1 storm with top sustained winds of 120km/h battering Florida with continued hurricane-force winds, torrential rain and dangerous storm surges, leaving nearly six million without power.

According to media reports, there were at least five storm-related deaths. The storm headed north on Monday towards Gainesville and Tallahassee, taking dangerous wind gusts with it, ABC News reported.

As of 6 a.m., over 5.7 million customers were without power in Florida — that’s roughly 58 per cent of all customers in the state. There were 166,598 customers without power across the state of Georgia, according to Georgia Power.

Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with 225km/h winds, the strongest tropical storm to hit Florida since 2004.

A storm surge of 10 feet was recorded in the Keys and a record storm surge was reported in Jacksonville that exceeded the previous high set by Hurricane Dora in 1964.

Irma moved north into Florida on Sunday with powerful wind, rain and flooding, swamping parts of Naples and Miami on opposite coasts before moving to the centre of the state. Naples was struck with 228km/h winds, nearly 12 inches of rain and had a 7-foot storm surge.

Miami saw winds up to 159km/h. The National Hurricane Centre said it expected the storm’s centre to remain inland over Florida and then move into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee where heavy rain and possible flash floods will be a major concern.

The NHC said the storm “is still life-threatening with dangerous storm surge, wind and heavy rains”.

At least five people died of storm-related injuries in Florida as the massive hurricane barreled across the Sunshine State. Two people were killed in Monroe County, which encompasses the Florida Keys.

One person was found dead in a home in Shark Key. Another man was killed after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, officials said.

Two other people died from a two-car crash in the rain in Hardee County, which is about 96 kilometre inland from Sarasota, officials said.

The fifth fatality was reported in Orange County, which is near Orlando, after a car crash that was deemed related to the hurricane. At least 27 people died from Irma in the Caribbean, reports said.

Millions of Floridians were under evacuation orders as Irma neared. President Donald Trump approved a “major disaster” declaration in Florida on Sunday, authorising “federal funding to flow directly to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma”.

–IANS

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