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Hurricane Irma has made landfall on Florida’s west coast, with the deadly storm now bearing down on the densely populated city of Tampa.
People are still being warned of the deadly force of Irma, with winds of around 100mph, even as it was downgraded to a category two storm.
So far, Irma has claimed at least 24 lives in its deadly path across the Atlantic, including five in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda, and left thousands of people homeless.
Forecasters have warned the threat to life still remains, as Florida continues to be battered by powerful winds and torrential rain.
Overnight, Irma was downgraded to a category 2 storm, but continued to wreak havoc along the west coast.
The 400 mile-wide storm struck the Florida Keys before raging up the western coast of the state with its punishing winds extending across to Miami and West Palm Beach.
More than 3.3 million homes in the state are without power and parts of Miami are under water.
More than 160,000 people have taken refuge in shelters across Florida, with many holidaymakers and expat Brits caught in the path of the storm.
Matt and Zoe Caveney, from Liverpool, were forced to spend much of their honeymoon confined to their hotel room at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Mr Caveney, 28, who married Zoe, 22, on August 5, said: “I’ve never seen rain or wind like it in my life.
“With Orlando being in central Florida we aren’t getting it as bad as the coastal towns, but there are very strong winds and heavy rain battering down. We can hear the wind battering the door and trees outside.
“All the parks have been closed as of Saturday 7pm local time and won’t be opening again until Tuesday morning at the earliest.
“We are currently on curfew and have been told to stay in our hotel rooms. We were advised to purchase enough food and water in to keep us going through the weekend.
“We’re pretty calm about the whole thing – if a little apprehensive. It’s all frustrating with it being our honeymoon and obviously everyone back home is concerned too.”
Bryan Koon, Florida’s emergency management director, said authorities had only scattered information about the storm’s toll, but he remained hopeful.
“I’ve not heard of catastrophic damage. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means it hasn’t gotten to us yet,” he said.
In the low-lying Keys, where a storm surge of over 10 feet was recorded, appliances and furniture were seen floating away.
Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said the ocean waters were filled with navigation hazards, including sunken boats.
County administrator, Roman Gastesi said crews would begin house-to-house searches to check on survivors and an airborne relief mission led by C-130 military cargo planes is gearing up to bring emergency supplies to the Keys.
Federal tide gauge in Naples reported a 7ft rise in water levels in just 90 minutes late on Sunday.
Many streets were flooded in central Miami and other cities.
An apparent tornado spun off by Irma destroyed six mobile homes in Palm Bay, midway up the Atlantic coast, and flooding was reported along Interstate 4, which cuts across Florida’s mid-section.
Curfews were imposed in Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and much of the rest of South Florida, and some arrests of violators were reported. Miami Beach barred outsiders from the island.
While Irma raked Florida’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state was in danger because of the sheer size of the storm.
In one of the largest US evacuations, nearly seven million people in the south east were warned to seek shelter elsewhere, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.
About 30,000 people heeded orders to leave the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused to.
US President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida.
He described the hurricane as a “big monster” and praised the federal agencies involved with the storm and saying he would go to the state “very soon”.
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