Hurricane Irma: Last chance for people to flee Florida in mass evacuation as giant storm hits north coast of Cuba

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Deadly Hurricane Irma has barrelled along the coast of Cuba with strong winds and heavy rain as millions of people continue to flee Florida in preparation for devastation.

The giant storm, which was at one point the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the Atlantic, has devastated islands in the Caribbean and killed at least 21 people.

It is set to hit the Florida keys and state’s south peninsula on Sunday in 30 hours of fierce wind and rain.

Irma made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago, the north eastern coast of Cuba, late on Friday. Tens of thousands of people have been moved to safety away from the shoreline, which is a popular spot for tourists.

Devastation in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. (AP)

The hurricane is the first category five storm to hit Cuba in nearly a century.

Today is the last chance for residents and tourists in Florida to join the millions evacuating, as officials have ordered 5.6 million people to leave. The state saw gridlock on roads and petrol shortages.

The governor of Florida Rick Scott said on Friday: “If you are planning to leave and do not leave tonight, you will have to ride out this extremely dangerous storm at your own risk”.

Irma, which had been downgraded to a category four storm before re-intensifying and becoming a category five again, smashed homes, schools, stores, roads and boats on Wednesday and Thursday as it rolled over including St Martin, St Barts, St Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Hurricane Irma Continues to Devastate As It Hurtles Towards US

In the ravaged Caribbean islands, rescuers began work to help some of the hardest hit areas. The UK Navy is among the international authorities rushing food, water and troops to the stricken zone.

Those who have died in the storm so far include 11 on St Martin and St Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, four in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda.

Authorities reported looting and gunfire in St. Martin, and a curfew was imposed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The tropical islands face a new threat on the horizon to the east in the form of category four storm Hurricane Jose, bringing 150 mph winds that could punish some of the devastated areas.


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