Hurricane Irma: Massive storm bears down on Florida

Parts of the city of Miami are under water as Hurricane Irma heads for mainland Florida, triggering storm surges across the south of the state.

The category four storm with sustained winds up to 130mph (209km/h) moved away from the Florida Keys and should make landfall on the west coast in hours.

About 2ft (60cm) of flood water has been seen in the city’s financial district, where one major street resembled a river.

More than 1m homes are without power.

More than 6.3 million people in Florida were told to evacuate, with warnings of a “life-threatening” storm surge.

Irma has already devastated parts of the Caribbean with at least 27 deaths.

What is happening in Florida?

Extreme winds and storm surges continued in the Lower Florida Keys area, which includes Key West.

All residents had been ordered to leave. Some surges could reach 15ft (4.6m).

One official had warned staying on the islands would be “almost like suicide”.

Media reports say a man was killed on Saturday in the Keys when his pick-up truck crashed into a tree as the storm gathered pace.

  • Latest updates
  • Hurricane Irma: Visual guide
Storm surge map

As the eye of the storm is moving north to mainland Florida, more than 1.4 million homes in the state are reported to be without power and more than 100,000 people have taken refuge in shelters.

Cities such as Tampa and St Petersburg seem set to bear the brunt. The Tampa Bay area, with a population of about three million, has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“We are about to get punched in the face by this storm,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was “very concerned” about the west coast.

He told NBC’s Today Show that though authorities had prepared all week for the arrival of Irma, the prospect of such a large storm surge was “really scary”.

Miami Beach Police Major Richard Rand told the BBC there was flooding, including 2-3ft inland, and many power lines were down.

One of the flooded areas was Miami’s financial district, Brickell, where Southeast 12th Street resembled a river, the Miami Herald reported.

Earlier a crane collapsed onto a building under construction in high winds.

  • The deadly danger from Miami’s ubiquitous cranes

    Which other areas have already been hit?

    Irma is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, and has already caused widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands:

    • Cuba: Officials have talked of “significant damage”, without giving further details, but no casualties have been reported. Electricity is out across the capital, Havana
    • St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, are now uninhabitable, French officials say. They said nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while four are known to have died in Dutch Sint Maarten
    • Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear
    • Barbuda: The small island is said to be “barely habitable”, with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m (£80m). One death has been confirmed
    • Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead
    • Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died
    • British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported, and five dead
    • US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed
    • Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared
    • ‘Island looks like a bomb site’
    • Irma’s trail of destruction in Caribbean
    • ‘I have never been so scared in my life’
    Hurricane map

    What about Hurricanes Jose and Katia?

    Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, is a category four hurricane, with winds of up to 130mph.

    It initially followed a similar path to Irma and had threatened several islands already hit by its predecessor, but it has now tracked harmlessly to the north.

    Barbuda, whose residents had already left the island as Jose approached, was spared, as were St Martin and St Barthelemy.

    Hurricane Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, a category one storm with winds of up to 75mph, made landfall on the Mexican Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz late on Friday before weakening to a tropical depression.


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