Hurricane Irma set to devastate' US

All Florida residents asked to prepare for evacuation.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Hurricane Irma will “devastate” either Florida or neighbouring states as US officials were preparing a massive response.Irma is set to hit Florida as early as Saturday.

“Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the southeastern states,” FEMA administrator Brock Long said at a news briefing on Friday. He warned that parts of Florida would be out of electricity for days if not longer and that over 1,00,000 people may need shelter.

Irma ripped through the Caribbean on Friday leaving a trail of devastation and killing at least 18 people. So far, 1.2 million people have been affected by Irma, the Red Cross said. But that number looks set to rise — and could reach as high as 26 million, the agency said.

With the monster storm expected to reach the American south by the weekend, coastal areas of Florida and Georgia were battening down the hatches and carrying out their biggest evacuation since 2005.

Florida governor Rick Scott warned that all of the state’s 20 million inhabitants should be prepared to evacuate. “Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember, we can rebuild your home, we can’t rebuild your life. All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate soon,” he said.

Roaring across the Caribbean, the rare Category Five hurricane laid waste to a series of tiny islands like St Martin, where 60 per cent of homes were wrecked, before slamming into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

By Friday morning, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) had downgraded Irma to Category Four with maximum wind speeds of up to 250 km per hour while warning it was still extremely dangerous.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose strengthened to a powerful Category Four storm as it followed in the path of Hurricane Irma, US weather forecasters said. The “extremely dangerous” storm was located in the Atlantic Ocean 670 km east of the Leeward Islands, the National Hurricane Center said.

Further west, Hurricane Katia was also upgraded on Friday to a Category Two storm as it churned towards the eastern coast of Mexico, swirling about 205 km from the major port city of Veracruz.

( Source : Agencies )
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