World

Floridians go home as Irma eases

FLORIDA/MARCO ISLAND: Storm-shocked Floridians returned to shattered homes on Monday as the remnants of Hurricane Irma pushed inland, leaving more than half of the residents without power and city streets underwater from Orlando and Jacksonville into coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

Downgraded to a tropical storm that day, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes before barrelling into the Florida Keys on Sunday and moving inland to wreak havoc across the third most populous US state.

Still, the scope of damage in the US paled in comparison with the devastation in parts of the Caribbean, where Irma killed nearly 40 people.

In Florida, the resort archipelago of the Keys was hit especially hard, Governor Rick Scott told a news conference.

He said: "It is horrible what we saw."

The US Defence Department said up to 10,000 residents who had stayed put on the Keys may now be stranded and in need of evacuation.

In Miami, which escaped the worst of Irma's winds but experienced heavy flooding, residents in the city's Little Haiti neighbourhood returned to the wreckage of trailer homes shredded by the storm.

"I wanted to cry, but this is what it is. This is life," said Ms Melida Hernandez, 67, as she gazed at the ruins of her home, split in two by a fallen tree.

She had ridden out the storm at a nearby church.

As for Jacksonville in north-eastern Florida, the city's website warned residents: "Stay inside. Go up. Not out. There is flooding throughout the city."

It also warned residents to be wary of snakes and alligators that may be driven into the floodwaters.

The storm claimed its first known US fatality over the weekend in the Keys - a man was found dead in a lorry that had crashed into a tree in high winds.

At least one other possibly storm-related fatal car crash was reported on Sunday in Orange County, Florida. - REUTERS

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