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Hurricane Irma has wreaked havoc in Florida packing winds of up to 130mph, swamping homes and knocking out power for millions of residents.
The 400 mile-wide storm mostly cleared out Florida Keys before raging up the western coast 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.
The devastating hurricane was nearing the heavily-populated Tampa area early on Monday as it moved northwards inland.
While it arrived in Florida a category four hurricane, by nightfall it was down to category two with winds of 100mph.
Meanwhile, more than 160,000 people waited in shelters statewide as Irma headed up the coast.
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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