6.2m people left with no power as Irma weakens

AFP
Monster storm Irma started to weaken yesterday though it was still whipping parts of Florida with fearsome winds and rain, leaving 6.2 million people without power.
AFP
AFP

People walk around branches and trees that were downed when Hurricane Irma passed through the area yesterday in Miami, Florida.

Monster storm Irma, which ripped a deadly path through the Caribbean, started to weaken yesterday though it was still whipping parts of Florida with fearsome winds and rain, leaving 6.2 million people without power.

The death toll jumped to at least 40 as Cuba said 10 people had been killed there over the weekend as the storm carved a path northward. The Cuban victims died from causes ranging from electrocution to drowning, building collapse and a balcony falling on a bus, authorities there said.

Meanwhile, Florida residents in the storm’s wake who spent an anxious night huddled indoors began to venture out to survey the damage, which largely did not seem to be as bad as initially feared.

Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm early yesterday as it spun northward through Florida, but forecasters warned of hazardous storm surges and “some wind gusts to near hurricane force.”

Authorities in Jacksonville, in northeast Florida, declared a flash flood emergency, as dangerous storm surge overwhelmed parts of downtown and other areas.

Warnings of storm surges remained in place in several areas of south and central Florida, including the heavily populated Tampa Bay region.

“As little as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of moving water can knock you down,” tweeted the state’s Governor Rick Scott.

“Stay inside. Stay safe,” he added. “The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded.”

Irma had triggered orders for more than 6 million people in the United States to flee to safety, one of the biggest evacuations in the country’s history.

The storm roared ashore on the Florida Keys island chain on Sunday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, ripping boats from their moorings, flattening palm trees and downing power lines, after devastating a string of Caribbean islands.

As of yesterday morning, 6.2 million customers were without power in Florida, according to the state’s Department of Emergency Management. Florida Power and Light said it had “safely shut down” one of two nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point power plant.

In flood-prone Miami, the largest US city in Irma’s path, cleaning crews began clearing branches, debris and fallen street signs from downtown and the Brickell financial district at dawn yesterday. Though Irma’s approach caused two construction cranes to collapse, the city appeared to be spared from major damage.

The sea had swallowed the coastal walkway of glitzy Brickell Avenue in the center of Miami on Sunday, flooding the streets and leaving cars half-submerged.

By yesterday morning, most Miami streets were drying up, though they were covered with debris.

In Bonita Springs, on Florida’s hard-hit southwest coast, large areas were flooded and the entire city was without power. Some residents were trying to reach their homes by walking through floodwater up to their waists, while others paddled canoes.

The streets were completely blocked by branches and there appeared to be thousands of downed trees.

The scope of damage in the hard-hit Florida Keys was not immediately clear. 

Before reaching the US, Irma smashed through many Caribbean islands.

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