Hurricane Irma Storm hits west coast of Florida

Hurricane Irma is blasting up the west coast of Florida after buffeting the city of Miami, with dangerous flooding along long stretches of coast.

It has been downgraded from category three to one but still has maximum sustained winds of 85mph (137km/h).

More than 3.4 million homes in the state are without power, with parts of the city of Miami are under water.

At least four deaths have been linked to the storm and several areas have brought in curfews.Irma cut a devastating track across 10 Caribbean countries and territories, killing at least 28 people there.

President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida, describing the hurricane as a “big monster”.At 06:00 GMT, the centre of the hurricane was about 25 miles (40km) north-east of Tampa, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Some 3m people live in the Tampa Bay area. The region has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

Irma is expected to weaken into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia later on Monday but first its centre will continue to move over the western Florida peninsula, the NHC said.Irma made landfall on Marco Island off Florida’s west coast at 15:35 local time (19:35 GMT) on Sunday, with winds of up to 120mph.

After leaving the coast of Cuba, Irma had barrelled through the Florida Keys, a chain of low-lying islands to the south, on Sunday morning.

The whole of the southern tip of Florida has seen high winds, driving rain and storm surges.

About 2ft of water has been seen in Miami’s financial district, where one major street resembled a river, but the worst damage is expected on the west coast. Two cranes have collapsed in high winds in the city.

How have residents felt the impact?

At least four deaths have been connected to the storm:

  • A police officer working at a hurricane shelter in Hardee County was killed driving home when she collided with another vehicle being driven by a fellow officer, who also died
  • A person died in a single-car crash in in Orange County
  • A man died in Marathon, Monroe County, on Saturday when his truck hit a tree, the sheriff’s office said, adding that it was unknown if the crash had been weather-related or not

Some 6.3 million people in the state were told to evacuate before the storm.As many as 4.4 million homes and businesses have lost power, Reuters news agency reports, quoting Florida Power & Light and other utilities.

There is major disruption to transport, with Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport closed for Monday.

Amid fears of debris and reports of looting, curfews have been imposed in areas such as Miami-Dade County.

Source: Newsbos/BBC