• Monday, Sep 26, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:24 am

Millions without power in Florida in deadly Irma's wake

  • Published at 01:53 pm September 12th, 2017
Millions without power in Florida in deadly Irma's wake

Millions of Florida residents were without power Tuesday as the remnants of Hurricane Irma spun northwest into the southeastern US, drenching the region and causing rivers to overflow.

Most of the Sunshine State appeared to have dodged forecasts of catastrophic damage despite dire early warnings.

But Irma's overall death toll jumped to at least 40 after Cuba reported that 10 people had been killed there over the weekend.

Irma roared ashore as a powerful Category 4 hurricane when it hit the far southern Florida Keys on Sunday, tearing boats from their moorings, uprooting palm trees and downing power lines, after devastating a string of Caribbean islands.

By the time it hit the US mainland the storm had been downgraded, and by late Monday it had weakened further to a tropical depression.

Across the Caribbean, hard-hit island residents struggled to get back on their feet as Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States increased relief efforts.

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to the region Tuesday to tour devastated French territories, joining the Dutch king who had arrived in his country's Caribbean territories on Sunday.

In Florida, the damage in most cases were not as bad as feared.

About 15 million people in Florida were without power, however, and Governor Rick Scott said the island chain known as the Keys had suffered widespread damage.

"It's horrible what we saw," Scott said after flying over the island chain aboard a Coast Guard helicopter.

Most Keys residents evacuated from the low-lying tourist archipelago, known for its fishing, scuba diving and boating, before Irma struck.

The storm felled trees and left debris and vehicles strewn across the streets. But concrete homes appeared to have withstood the powerful gusts.

Authorities were allowing residents and business owners in the upper part of the Keys to begin returning on Tuesday.

Irma now a tropical depression

The National Hurricane Centre downgraded Irma to a tropical depression in its 0300 GMT Tuesday bulletin.

Irma's maximum sustained winds dropped to 56kph, and the storm's eye was in western Georgia, and expected to cross into eastern Alabama and Tennessee later Tuesday.

"Additional weakening is forecast, and Irma is... likely to dissipate by Wednesday evening," the NHC said.

Heavy rain, however, was a problem: Florida's northeastern city of Jacksonville, population 880,000, ordered urgent evacuations amid record flooding along the St Johns River.

Flooding was also reported in Charleston, South Carolina.

Irma had triggered orders for more than six million people to flee to safety, one of the biggest evacuations in US history.

In flood-prone Miami, the largest US city in Irma's path, crews were busy clearing branches, debris and fallen street signs from downtown.

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