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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 14:19 PM | 10-09-2017

Irma bears down on Florida

Millions of people huddled in shelters or in battened-down homes in Florida on Sunday morning (Sept 10, 2017) as Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, prepared to make landfall with 130-mph (210 kph) winds and catastrophically high seas, Reuters reported.

The National Hurricane Center forecast potentially deadly storm surges -- water driven ashore by the winds -- of up to 15 feet (4.6 m). As the northern edge of the storm reached the Florida Keys archipelago off the tip of southern Florida, lashing rains and winds knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people on the mainland.

“Pray for us,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said in an ABC News interview as his state braced for the massive storm, which has already left a trail of destruction through the Caribbean.

Irma, which prompted one of the largest evacuations in US history, was a Category 4 hurricane about 20 miles (30 km) east-southeast of Key West, Florida, as of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the NHC reported.

A day after hitting Cuba’s northern Coast, Irma was on a path that would take it along Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast near population centers including Tampa and St Petersburg, the NHC said. Hundreds of thousands of people spent the night in emergency shelters.

Irma was expected to roar up Florida’s western coast through the day on Sunday, with hurricane-force winds extending some 80 miles (129 km) from its center. Forecasters also warned tornadoes could form in large portions of the state.

“Take action now to protect your life,” the National Weather Service in Key West advised. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”

Officials in Florida have ordered a total of 6.3 million people, or about a third of the state’s population, to evacuate, creating massive traffic jams on highways and overcrowding shelters.

Irma, which killed at least 22 people in the Caribbean, was likely to cause billions of dollars in damage to the third-most-populous US state.

Close to 600,000 homes and businesses were without power as of Sunday morning, according to utilities.

Wind gusts near hurricane force began to batter the Florida Keys late on Saturday, the NHC said, with Key West seeing gusts of up to 89 mph on Sunday morning and water levels about 2 feet (61 cm) above normal.


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