Hurricane Irma has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, but the damage is already done.
Ten people are dead in the United States and 35 have been killed in the Caribbean in the wake of the storm. Irma is now over Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Authorities have sent an aircraft carrier and other Navy ships to aid search-and-rescue operations amid reports of wide devastation in the hurricane-battered Florida Keys.
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 5 when it smashed into several Caribbean islands last week, was reduced to remnants with top sustained winds of 15 mph (24 kph) early Tuesday. Meanwhile, heavy equipment crews have begun clearing away road and other debris in Florida as cleanup crews fan out with chain saws to remove downed trees and begin taking stock of the extent of the damage.
Irma battered the Florida Keys and wreaked havoc 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. Florida Gov. Rick Scott flew over the hard-hit but isolated Keys on Monday and said he saw “devastation” that included boats washed ashore and mobile homes pummeled by the storm.
“It’s horrible, what we saw,” Scott said. All around the region, millions of homes and businesses lost power during Irma’s passage, with many of those outages in Florida.
Raw aerial footage of Key Largo shows destroyed homes, toppled trees and damaged boats.
At least 10 deaths in the U.S. Southeast are now blamed on Irma, including people hit by falling trees or tree limbs. At least 35 people were reported killed earlier when Irma devastated several Caribbean islands. That toll included 10 killed in Cuba and state media said most of those died in Havana, where seawater surged deep into residential neighbourhoods.
What’s happening in the Florida Keys?
Scott says the Navy has deployed the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue amid reports of devastation in the hurricane-battered Keys. Scott flew over the Keys and says he saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore. He says he hopes everyone who stayed behind survived Irma. Almost every mobile home park in the Keys had overturned homes, according to the governor. The National Guard also has arrived in the island chain amid official fears that a humanitarian crisis may be developing in the stricken region.
Big airports in Florida remain closed Monday with flight cancellations spreading along Irma’s track outside Florida. More than 4,200 U.S. flights scheduled for Monday were cancelled. American Airlines said flights in Miami, where it has a huge base, were expected to resume on Tuesday. Irma did not cause as much damage in Florida as some forecasters had feared. But Terminal buildings at Miami International Airport suffered significant water damage, and ceiling tiles at gate areas fell down throughout the airport, according to authorities.