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The deadly stormed roared through the state on Sunday as punishing 130mph winds and 15ft storm surges left one million people without power.
Four people died – three in storm related car crashes and one from natural causes at a hurricane shelter – as Irma levelled 12 hours of carnage after making landfall in the US.
As Irma headed north towards Tampa-St Petersburg it was downgraded to a category three storm but the state’s governor Rick Scott urged citizens to “pray, pray, pray for everybody in Florida” in the wake of potentially devastating floods.
More than six million people were told to evacuate their homes and tens of thousands of people are currently holed up in shelters in anticipation for the destruction.
More than one million homes and businesses were left without power as the storm pummelled cables.
Officials from Florida Power and Light said it could take weeks for electricity systems to be fully restored.
Images emerged of residents in storm-hit Cuba waist deep in flood water while deluges hit downtown Miami.
Winds began to pick up in St Petersburg, some 400 miles north the Keys on Sunday evening, as people began bracing for the onslaught.
“I’ve been here with other storms, other hurricanes. But this one scares me,” resident Sally Carlson said she snapped photos of the waves crashing against boats.
“Let’s just say a prayer we hope we make it through.”
The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby.
Forecasters warned that after moving up Florida’s west coast, a weakened Irma could push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond.
A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, some 200 miles from the sea.
Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, Irma could prove to be one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and inflict damage on a scale not seen in the state in 25 years.
The damage is likely to cost billions of dollars.
A fund set up by all five living former US presidents to help Hurricane Harvey victims, the One America Appeal, is already making preparations to send money to the crisis-hit area.
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