Hun­dreds of res­i­dents re­turn to storm-rav­aged Florida Keys

15mn peo­ple are with­out elec­tric­ity in Florida, one mil­lion in Ge­or­gia and 20,000 in South Carolina

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Shat­tered mo­bile homes, grounded sail­boats and jum­bled mounds of de­bris greeted Keys res­i­dents as po­lice be­gan lift­ing road­blocks to the is­lands

Res­i­dents of the Florida Keys rav­aged by Hur­ri­cane Irma, which has left at least 12 dead statewide, dis­cov­ered scenes of des­o­la­tion as they re­turned home on Tues­day amid a mas­sive op­er­a­tion to re­store elec­tric­ity to mil­lions of peo­ple still with­out power in three south­ern US states.

As emer­gency work­ers picked through the rub­ble, Irma’s death toll in Florida rose from an ear­lier fig­ure of two. The storm has now killed at least 50 peo­ple across the Caribbean and the United States.

Shat­tered mo­bile homes, grounded sail­boats and jum­bled mounds of de­bris greeted Keys res­i­dents as po­lice be­gan lift­ing road­blocks to the is­lands fol­low­ing the pas­sage of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

“We don’t have much left,” Patty Purdo, a 55 year old wait­ress, said as she sur­veyed her home in the wreck­age of the Seabreeze trailer park on the is­land of Is­lam­orada.

Euro­pean lead­ers vis­ited the storm-rav­aged Caribbean mean­while amid crit­i­cism over re­lief ef­forts and the White House an­nounced that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his wife, Me­la­nia, would visit Florida on Thurs­day.

Brock Long, di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA), said Irma caused ma­jor dam­age in the Keys, a 195km string of is­lands off Florida’s south­ern coast known for boat­ing, scuba div­ing and fish­ing. Ninety per cent of the ar­chi­pel­ago’s homes have been de­stroyed or sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged he said.

The is­lands had been all but cut off since the storm struck on Sun­day as a Cat­e­gory Four hur­ri­cane, and bore the brunt of Irma’s dam­age while the rest of the Sun­shine State fared rel­a­tively bet­ter.

‘Most ar­eas are still with­out power and wa­ter. Cell ser­vice is spotty. And most gas sta­tions are still closed’, author­i­ties in Mon­roe County, which in­cludes the Keys, said in a Face­book post.

With over 15mn peo­ple with­out elec­tric­ity in Florida, one mil­lion in neigh­bour­ing Ge­or­gia and 20,000 in South Carolina, author­i­ties launched a mas­sive ef­fort to re­store power.

‘We’re hav­ing over 30,000 in­di­vid­u­als from out of state help­ing us get our power back on’, Gover­nor Scott told re­porters while tour­ing flood dam­age in the north­east city of Jack­sonville.

Scott said the author­i­ties had res­cued more than 300 peo­ple in Jack­sonville, a city of 880,000 hit by flood­ing on Mon­day.

As much of the state strug­gled with power out­ages and gas short­ages, Walt Dis­ney World in Orlando re­opened af­ter clos­ing for the hur­ri­cane, as did Dis­ney’s other theme parks - Ep­cot, An­i­mal King­dom and Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios.

Kather­ine Te­nea, who trav- elled to Dis­ney World from Tampa, Florida, with a friend said she had been ‘cooped up in the house for three days’ and looked for­ward to be­ing able to ‘stretch out and hang out’.

Be­fore reach­ing the United States, Irma tore through a string of Caribbean is­lands, go­ing from tiny Bar­buda on Wed­nes­day to the trop­i­cal par­adises of Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, the US and Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, Puerto Rico, the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Is­lands.

Amid fren­zied re­lief ef­forts, a nun’s habit stood out amid a sea of uni­formed first re­spon­ders.

“There was a need and I did what I could to help out,” Sis­ter Mar­garet Ann told CNN af­ter she took a chainsaw to cut through a downed tree that blocked a road in the Mi­ami sub­urb of West Ken­dall.

“I’ve been in ed­u­ca­tion over 30 years and I teach my stu­dents do what you can to help other peo­ple don’t think of your­selves and that’s what I wanted to do.”

An in­cred­u­lous off-duty po­lice of­fi­cer shared video footage of the nun in ac­tion which went vi­ral on Twit­ter.

French Pres­i­dent Macron and Bri­tain’s For­eign Sec­re­tary John­son vis­ited their na­tions’ hur­ri­cane-hit Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries.

The re­gion was the worst-hit of one of the most pow­er­ful storms on record as res­i­dents and hol­i­day­mak­ers be­came in­creas­ingly des­per­ate.

“Even from the plane I saw some­thing I have never seen be­fore,” Dutch King WillemAlexan­der told pub­lic news­caster NOS. “I have seen proper war as well as nat­u­ral dis­as­ters be­fore, but I’ve never seen any­thing like this.”

Macron’s plane touched down in Saint Martin as anger grew over loot­ing and law­less­ness in the French-Dutch ter­ri­tory.

“He needs to come to look around, so that he re­alises the hor­ror here,” lo­cal res­i­dent Peggy Brun said.

The French, Bri­tish and Dutch gov­ern­ments have faced crit­i­cism for fail­ing to mo­bilise re­sources for the storm which was forecast days in ad­vance.

Speak­ing in Guade­loupe, Macron in­sisted French author­i­ties were as well pre­pared as they could have been. “Now is not the time for con­tro­versy,” he said. “Re­turn­ing life to nor­mal is the ab­so­lute pri­or­ity.”


Patty Purdo (left) hugs a friend as she sur­veys the dam­age caused to her trailer home from Hur­ri­cane Irma at the Seabreeze Trailer Park in Is­lam­orada, in the Florida Keys, on Tues­day


A woman with her dog nav­i­gates through flood­wa­ters caused by Hur­ri­cane Irma in Mid­dle­burg, Florida on Tues­day


Mem­bers of the St Johns County Fire Res­cue con­duct op­er­a­tions in flood waters in Hast­ings, Florida, on Tues­day

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