Millions of Florida residents were without power Tuesday as the remnants of Hurricane Irma spun northwest into the US mainland, drenching the region and causing rivers to overflow. Most of the Sunshine State however appeared to have dodged forecasts of catastrophic damage despite dire early warnings. But Irma's overall death toll jumped to at least 40 after Cuba reported that 10 people had been killed there over the weekend.
Irma roared ashore as a powerful Category 4 hurricane when it hit the far southern Florida Keys on Sunday, tearing boats from their moorings, uprooting palm trees and downing power lines, after devastating a string of Caribbean islands. By the time it hit the peninsula the storm had been downgraded, and by late Monday it had weakened further to a tropical depression.
Across the Caribbean, hard-hit island residents struggled to get back on their feet as Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States increased relief efforts. Floridians who spent an anxious night huddled indoors were venturing out Monday to survey the damage, which in most cases were not as bad as feared. "If this had been a Category 4 hurricane the whole scenario would have been completely different," said Bob Lutz, a 62-year-old business owner. More than 6.5 million customers in Florida were without power, however, and Governor Rick Scott said the island chain known as the Keys had suffered widespread damage.
"It's horrible what we saw," Scott said after flying over the island chain aboard a Coast Guard helicopter. He said the water, electricity and sewage systems in the Keys were non-operational, and that trailer parks had been "overturned."
"We now go through the much longer phase, which is the recovery phase," said Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "And believe me, folks, some of this is going to take a while, especially power restoration."
Most Keys residents evacuated from the low-lying tourist archipelago, known for its fishing, scuba diving and boating, before Irma struck. The storm felled trees and left debris and vehicles strewn across the streets. But concrete homes appeared to have withstood the powerful gusts.
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