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  • The aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Saint Martin.

    The aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Saint Martin. | Photo: Reuters

After wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and the United States for days, the storm has now dissipated.

According to the latest numbers, the strongest-ever recorded storm in the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma, has claimed at least 43 lives in the Caribbean and at least 18 in the U.S.

After wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and the United States for days, the storm has now dissipated. President Donald Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he is set to visit Florida on Thursday in the aftermath.

RELATED:
Irma Weakens but Ravages Cuba, Heads Toward Florida

The initial damages assessed by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), found 25 percent of homes in the Keys destroyed and 65 percent suffered major damage

"Basically every house in the Keys was impacted," Brock Long, an administrator of the FEMA, said in a statement. 

Nearly 5.8 million homes and businesses still have no power in Florida and nearby states, until late Tuesday. Florida's largest utility, Florida Power & Light Co, said western parts of the state might be without electricity until Sept. 22. 

Clean up efforts and repair operations in the region are underway. Miami Beach's iconic Ocean Drive, that was covered in sand from the storm surge and the wind, with downed trees and street signs, seems to have escaped major structural damage. Florida's Department of Transportation is working to repair two 300-foot road stretches on the Keys that were washed out.

Several coastal regions remained under storm surge warning until late Monday. "There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along the portions of coasts in western Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia," the National Hurricane Center said.

 

"Irma is producing very heavy rain across the southeastern United States. Intense rainfall rates are leading to flash flooding and rapid rises on creeks, streams, and rivers," the National Hurricane Center said.

Conditions continue to improve in most of Florida, but heavy flooding remains in Jacksonville, Florida, metro area. The center of Irma is located about 10 miles east of Albany, Georgia, or 150 miles south of Atlanta, moving north-northwest at 15 to 20 mph.

Hurricane Irma was downgraded from a category three to one, yesterday, but was still packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. The system is lashing the southern U.S. state of Florida, sweeping over the Florida Keys as it barrels towards the city of Tampa.

Despite the downgrade, the hurricane center warned of "catastrophic storm surge flooding" ranging several meters in coastal cities, threatening loss of life and engulfing whole cities.

Irma split trees like flimsy toothpicks, tore down roofs and scattered their tiles across, forced skyscrapers to teeter in the harsh winds, and downed power lines, creating a calamity for people across Florida.

By evening, the storm made landfall once again on Marco Island and passed over Naples while fluctuating between Categories 2 and 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

RELATED:
The U.S. Rich-Poor Divide Through the Lens of Hurricane Irma

Approximately, 2.5 million Floridians have lost power while 70,000 more residents remain in shelters as they wait out the storm.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” Governor Rick Scott said in a new conference. Curfews were declared on Sunday evening for the Gulf Coast towns of Tampa and St. Petersburg as counties across Florida reported arrests of looters pilfering homes left vacant by fleeing residents.

“The bad news is that this is some big monster,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House, saying damage from the storm would be very costly but "right now, we are worried about lives, not cost."

Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Florida and ordered federal aid to help the state cope with the damage, meaning residents and businesses can apply for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs. The federal government will also reimburse counties for emergency protective measures including evacuation and sheltering costs as well as for much of the costs of debris removal.

Trump expressed his hope that there "aren't too many people in that path," warning, "“You don’t want to be in that path.”

Miami is currently battling winds hitting at roughly 144 kilometers per hour with the National Weather Service reporting a continual rise throughout the evening as coconuts and palm fronds were transformed into potentially deadly projectiles, flying through the streets.

One of the biggest and most powerful storms ever to hit the United States, Irma lost some strength as it made its way along the northern coast of Cuba on Saturday, but it intensified again to a Category 4 hurricane as it headed north towards the Florida coast.

U.S. authorities scrambled to complete an unprecedented evacuation of millions of residents hours before the storm made landfall, with shelters reaching maximum capacity in several parts of the state.

Weather authorities extended the flood warning until Monday, September 11, as Irma is expected to produce heavy rainfall in Florida and Georgia.

After six million residents left the state, about 76,000 people remain in Florida's danger zone, many without electricity.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose is expected to hit the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy in the Caribbean as a Category 4, with about 134 mph winds, according to Meteo France.

Both islands also suffered damage from Irma earlier in the week.

Tropical storm warnings are also in place across several other islands including severely ravaged Barbuda, which experienced over 90 percent damage to its buildings by Irma. The residents of the island were evacuated to other countries for safety.

The storm killed at least 28 people as it raged through the Caribbean en route to Florida. On Sunday, Irma claimed its first U.S. fatality - a man found dead in a pickup truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds in the town of Marathon, in the Keys.

On Saturday, winds were still nearing speeds of around 124 mph as the hurricane headed north through the Cuban province of Santa Clara.

Hundreds of people living in the lower areas of the capital of Havana were brought to safer facilities on higher ground.

The National Weather Service says Irma is the first Category 5 hurricane to have made landfall on Cuba since October 1924.

In the Dominican Republic and Haiti, authorities have lifted their red alerts while evaluating the damage caused by the hurricane.

Two provinces in the Dominican Republic are still on yellow alert and nine on green until the National Office of Meteorology determines it is safe to remove the alerts.


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