NOW IT'S HIT­TING HOME

Irma’s dev­as­ta­tion sinks in as stunned Florid­i­ans re­turn

New York Post - - NEWS - By YARON STEIN­BUCH and DANIKA FEARS

Thou­sands of Florid­i­ans en­dured gaso­line short­ages and bumper-to­bumper traf­fic Tues­day as they made the slow jour­ney back south to their storm-rav­aged com­mu­ni­ties — where many found they had noth­ing left.

“A lot of peo­ple lost ev­ery­thing,” Dar­win Tabacco, who lives in the Florida Keys, told CNN.

“There’s homes blown off the stilts. There’s power lines down all over the place. Trees com­pletely up­rooted. Peo­ple’s busi­nesses flooded. Sep­tic fields flood­ing. It’s just ter­ri­ble.”

About 90 per­cent of the homes in the Keys were either de­stroyed or sus­tained ma­jor dam­age when Hur­ri­cane Irma swept through the is­land chain with 130-mph winds, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency said Tues­day.

“Ba­si­cally, ev­ery house in the Keys was im­pacted some way,” FEMA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Brock Long said.

A quar­ter of the houses were en­tirely de­stroyed, the agency added.

“It’s go­ing to be pretty hard for those com­ing home,” said Petrona Her­nan­dez, who lives in Plan­ta­tion Key. “It’s go­ing to be dev­as­tat­ing to them.”

While some Keys res­i­dents were al­lowed to re­turn to their homes, the lower Keys — in­clud­ing Key West — were still closed as search-and-res­cue teams scoured the is­lands and author­i­ties worked to re­pair roads.

“We are still with­out wa­ter, power, sewer, gas and cell ser­vice,” said Leyla Nedin, who lives on Cud­joe Key, where the storm first made land­fall, and is wor­ried about re­turn­ing home.

“My con­cern is that even if we get to go in to the lower Keys, our frag­ile in­fra­struc­ture could be even more com­pro­mised.”

About 10 mil­lion res­i­dents across Florida were still with­out power Tues­day — and it could take up to 10 days

for elec­tric­ity to be fully re­stored in the state, util­ity of­fi­cials said.

The num­ber of storm-re­lated deaths in the con­ti­nen­tal United States has climbed to 18, and at least 37 peo­ple were killed in the Caribbean, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Among the dead are Zhen Tain, 21, killed in a car wreck Mon­day in South Carolina in the midst of Irma, and Brian Buwalda, an ac­coun­tant from Orlando, Fla., elec­tro­cuted by a downed power line.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said there’s “a lot of work to do” — and more than 30,000 util­ity work­ers — in­clud­ing those from out-of­s­tate com­pa­nies pitch­ing in — have been work­ing to get power re­stored.

“Ev­ery­body’s go­ing to come to­gether,” Scott said. “We’re go­ing to get this state re­built. This state is a state of strong re­silient peo­ple.”

Richard Nowak, 86, re­turned to his trailer home in Naples, Fla., and was shocked by the dam­age.

“I don’t un­der­stand, it’s al­most like a tor­nado,” he told NBC News. “[Hur­ri­cane] Wilma [in 2005] was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as this.”

In Naples, more than 300 peo­ple waited in a line for a Publix su­per- mar­ket to open — and they weren’t al­ways pa­tient.

“At first it’s like, ‘We’re safe, thank God.’ Now they’re testy,” said Phill Chirchir­illo, 57, who waited more than two hours for gro­ceries. “The or­der of the day is to keep peo­ple calm.”

Wil­liam Rose hasn’t been able to reach fam­ily mem­bers in the Keys.

“I have no idea” if they sur­vived, he told CNN.

He said his mom texted him just be­fore los­ing cell­phone ser­vice, lament­ing that she had re­fused to evac­u­ate. “This is ter­ri­ble. I will never do this again,” she wrote. “I’m so glad you got out.”

The White House an­nounced Tues­day that Pres­i­dent Trump will visit Florida Thurs­day to sur­vey the dam­age.

Mean­while, of­fi­cials abroad were ad­dress­ing the dev­as­ta­tion in their Caribbean-is­land ter­ri­to­ries.

UK For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son said he will spend “the com­ing days” in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and An­guilla.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron trav­eled Tues­day to the halfFrench is­land of St. Martin, where there were re­ports of mass loot­ing, and to St. Barts.

Mo­bile homes (left) in a Florida Keysy trailer park lie de­stroyed in the af­ter­math of Irma. Mean­while, a fallen sea­side home in Vi­lano Beach (top right) sits by the shore; a cou­ple (near right) takes a wet ride on their se­nior trikes in Naples; and Patty Purdo (far right) ex­am­ines the dam­age to her mo­bile home.

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