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Hurricane Irma

US President Donald Trump urges Americans to stay safe as ‘epic’ Hurricane Irma approaches Florida

More than 1 million people are under mandatory orders to evacuate in Florida and Georgia, and more states are expected to urge residents to seek higher ground

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 9:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:28am

US President Donald Trump urged Americans Friday to get out of the way of Hurricane Irma, calling it an “epic” storm as other officials warned time was running out for people living its path to escape its wrath.

Irma menaced Cuba and the Bahamas on Friday as it drove toward Florida after lashing the Caribbean with devastatingly high winds, killing 21 people and leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake.Irma is now a category 4 hurricane packing winds of 240km/h and is expected to make landfall in south Florida over the weekend. 

“Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way, if possible. Federal G is ready!” Trump tweeted.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told a press briefing Irma is “a remarkably dangerous storm, and the window to get yourself in the right spot for weathering the storm, either evacuating or weathering the storm is closing rapidly”.

More than 1 million people are under mandatory orders to evacuate in Florida and Georgia, and more states are expected to urge residents to seek higher ground, said FEMA administrator Brock Long.

“Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the southeastern states,” Long said. “I can guarantee you that I don’t know anybody in Florida that has ever experienced what is about to hit south Florida. They need to get out and listen to the advice.”

Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States
Brock Long, FEMA administrator

Long said just three category 5 hurricanes have hit the United States since 1851, including Hurricane Andrew which levelled much of south Florida in 1992.

“Andrew was a very, very small, compact category 5 compared to what we are seeing here in Irma,” Long warned. “It is not a question of if Florida is going to be impacted, it is a question of how bad.”

Deadly Irma has wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, killing at least 21 people and flattening buildings in tiny islands of St Martin, Antigua and Barbuda.

The storm weakened slightly from a category 5 to category 4 by Friday morning as it charged across the central Bahamas and north coast of Cuba on Friday.

The hurricane is forecast to slam into the island chain south of Florida known as The Keys on Saturday, then forge a path of destruction northward up the Florida peninsula.

Some 6 million people live in the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, all nestled on the southeastern coast and famed for their sunny beaches, golf courses and tourist appeal.

Experts say the evacuation could be the largest in the US since 2005, when Hurricane Rita forced more than three million people to flee Texas and Louisiana.