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Florida woke up today to begin picking up the pieces after the monster Hurricane Irma left devastation across America’s sunshine state.
At least 10 people were killed in the storm that crashed onshore on the Florida Keys on Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds and gradually wore itself out as it wrought destruction along the state”s entire 400-mile coastline.
“I just hope everyone survived,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott, who claimed it was too early to put a cost on the damage that will certainly run into billions of pounds.
Boats were cast ashore, and water, sewers and electricity were knocked out. “I don’t think I saw one trailer park where almost everything wasn’t overturned,” he added.
“It”s horrible, what we saw,” the governor said. “I know for our entire state, especially the Keys, it’s going to be a long road.”
The authorities fear more people may have perished in the 24-hour nightmare. An aircraft carrier and several other Navy ships were sent to help the search-and-rescue operation last night.
Blocked, waterlogged roads, enormous power outages and cut-off communications meant the full scale of the damage was still unclear early today.
Six deaths in Florida have been blamed on Irma, along with three in Georgia and one in South Carolina. At least 35 people were killed in the Caribbean.
Statewide, an estimated 13 million people, or two-thirds of Florida’s population, remained without power. That’s more than the population of New York and Los Angeles combined.
Officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone. While some residents returned nervously to see what became of their homes, more than 180,000 people still huddled in shelters.
Irma weakened to a tropical storm and caused chaos in Georgia and South Carolina as it moved inland with winds still at about 50 mph.
In a parting shot, it triggered severe flooding around Jacksonville in the state”s northeastern corner close to the Georgia line.
The storm surge brought some of the worst flooding ever seen there, with at least 46 people pulled from swamped homes.
Around the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, damage appeared relatively modest. Residents had braced for the first direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.
But by the time Irma arrived in the middle of the night yesterday, its winds were down to 100 mph or less.
“When that sun came out this morning and the damage was minimal, it became a good day,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “What we thought was going to be a punch in the face was a glancing blow.”
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