Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Irma's trail: death, floods and misery

Published:Wednesday | September 13, 2017 | 9:00 AM
Alfonso Jose Jr, two, is floated down his flooded street by his parents as they wade through water to reach an open convenience store in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Florida.
British Ministry of Defence army commandos deliver aid and provide support to British Virgin Islands communities on the island of Tortola. Britain sent a navy ship and almost 500 troops to the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos islands.
Ronalyn Cribbs (left), M.J. Cribbs, seven, and Michael Cribbs ride in their canoe through flooding from the Alafia River, seen on River Drive, in Valrico, Florida.
Extensive damage and destruction from Hurricane Irma is seen at the Seabreeze Trailer Park in Islamorada, Florida.
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MIAMI (AP):

Florida is cleaning up from one of the most destructive storms in its history, Hurricane Irma. At least 12 deaths in the US have been blamed on the storm. Authorities have sent an aircraft carrier and other navy ships to aid search-and-rescue operations amid reports of widespread devastation in the hurricane-battered Florida Keys. Dozens of people were killed in the Caribbean, where the storm was at its most powerful.

 

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS?

 

Search-and-rescue teams made their way into the hard-hit Florida Keys. Crews worked to fix the highway connecting the islands and rush aid to victims. Federal officials estimated one-quarter of all homes in the Keys were destroyed.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said preliminary estimates suggested that in addition to the destroyed dwellings, 65 per cent of homes in the Keys sustained major damage. Authorities allowed residents back into the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, but not into Key West of the other Lower Keys.

 

THE CARIBBEAN

 

People across the island shared by Dutch St Maarten and French St Martin were trying to rebuild the lives. The Dutch Red Cross said there were still more than 200 people listed as missing on St Maarten, and more than 90 per cent of buildings were damaged.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the government's top priority was to help island residents return to normal life. But there was a severe shortage of food and water, and widespread looting was reported. At least 35 people in the Caribbean were killed, including 10 in Cuba. Britain sent a navy ship and almost 500 troops to the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos islands.

 

IRMA, WHAT'S NEXT?

 

Recovery operations are ramping up around Florida and beyond, even as the weakened vestiges of Irma dump rains across the South in such states as Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. The hurricane, once a fearsome Category five when it smashed through the Caribbean last week, was reduced to remnants with top sustained winds of 25mph (40kph) early Tuesday. Meanwhile, heavy equipment crews have begun clearing away road and other debris in Florida as cleanup crews fan out with chainsaws to remove downed trees and begin taking stock of the extent of the damage.

 

THE DAMAGE IN THE US

 

Irma battered the Florida Keys and wreaked havoc along the length of the Florida peninsula. It flooded streets and coasts, swamped homes, uprooted massive trees, cast boats ashore, snapped power lines and toppled construction cranes.

The Florida cities of Jacksonville and Orlando were especially hard-hit by floodwaters. Storm surges also swamped some coastal areas in Georgia and South Carolina.

 

THE DEATH TOLL

 

The death toll from Hurricane Irma stood at 47 by midday Tuesday. At least 35 people were reported killed across the Caribbean islands. In the US, 12 deaths were reported in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

 

FLIGHT CANCELLATIONS

 

Most commercial airports in Florida are open although hundreds of flights are still being canceled or delayed as the state recovers. Miami International Airport said Tuesday that limited airline and cargo flights had resumed.

The Federal Aviation Administration says airports in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville are open. The airport in Naples on the southwest coast is closed except for emergency flights.

FlightAware.com says about 2,000 US flights scheduled for Tuesday were canceled by early afternoon, including about 500 in Miami and 400 in Orlando. Atlanta's international airport - the world's busiest passenger airport - cancelled nearly 200 flights early Tuesday. That brought the total interrupted flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to about 1,300, spokesman Andrew Gobeil said.

 

IRMA SPARES STADIUMS

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Tuesday they will host the Chicago Bears as scheduled Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Across the state, the home of the Miami Dolphins and Hurricanes was declared safe after structural engineers found no damage related to Irma.

In college football, No. 23 Tennessee and 25th-ranked Florida will play as scheduled Saturday in Gainesville. No. 22-ranked South Florida was to resume practice Tuesday and will play host to Illinois on Friday, also at Raymond James. The Bucs' game will be their season opener.