Florida lies in path of dis­as­trous Irma

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - WORLD -

FRENCH, Bri­tish and Dutch military au­thor­i­ties rushed aid to a dev­as­tated string of Caribbean is­lands after Hur­ri­cane Irma left at least 11 peo­ple dead and thou­sands home­less as it spun to­ward Florida for what could be a cat­a­strophic blow this week­end.

War­ships and planes were dis­patched with food, wa­ter and troops after the fear­some Cat­e­gory 5 storm smashed homes, schools and roads, lay­ing waste to some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful and ex­clu­sive tourist des­ti­na­tions.

Hun­dreds of miles to the west, Florida braced for the on­slaught, with fore­cast­ers warn­ing that Irma could slam head­long into the Mi­ami metropoli­tan area of six mil­lion peo­ple, pun­ish the en­tire length of the state’s At­lantic coast and move into Ge­or­gia and South Carolina.

It is likely to hit late to­mor­row (AEST).

More than a half mil­lion peo­ple in Mi­ami-Dade County were or­dered to leave as Irma closed in with winds of 280km/h.

“Take it se­ri­ously, be­cause this is the real deal,” said Ma­jor Jeremy DeHart, a US Air Force Re­serve weather of­fi­cer who flew through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet.

About a mil­lion peo­ple were with­out power in Puerto Rico after Irma sideswiped the is­land overnight and nearly half the ter­ri­tory’s hospi­tals were re­ly­ing on gen­er­a­tors. No in­juries were re­ported.

The first is­lands hit by the storm were scenes of ter­ri­ble de­struc­tion. French Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe said four peo­ple were con­firmed dead and about 50 in­jured on the French side of St. Martin, an is­land split be­tween Dutch and French con­trol.

The toll could rise be­cause res­cue teams had yet to get a com­plete look at the dam­age.

At least four peo­ple were killed in the US Vir­gin Is­lands and of­fi­cials said they ex­pected to find more bod­ies.

Au­thor­i­ties de­scribed the dam­age as cat­a­strophic and said crews were strug­gling to re­open roads and re­store power. Three more deaths were re­ported on the Bri­tish is­land of An­guilla, in­de­pen­dent Bar­buda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.

Pic­ture: AFP

Ori­ent Bay on the Caribbean is­land of Saint Martin was one of the worst-af­fected ar­eas from Hur­ri­cane Irma. The is­land is di­vided be­tween the Nether­lands and France. About 60 per cent of homes on the is­land were dam­aged so badly they were un­in­hab­it­able.

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