3 dead as Hurricane Irma batters Florida with high winds, heavy rain

Trees bend in the tropical storm wind along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard as Hurricane Irma hits the southern part of the state on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2017

3 dead as Hurricane Irma batters Florida with high winds, heavy rain

MIAMI: Three people in Florida, including a sheriff’s deputy, have been killed in car crashes as Hurricane Irma closed in with high winds and lashing rain, officials said.
The hurricane bore down on southern Florida on Sunday with 130 mile-per-hour winds, flooding Miami streets and knocking out power to more than 1.6 million homes and businesses.
The storm was one of the most powerful ever seen in the Atlantic and has already killed two dozen people in the Caribbean and pummeled Cuba with 36-foot waves. Its core was located about 50 miles south of Naples by midday.
Some 6.5 million people, about a third of the state’s population, had been ordered to evacuate southern Florida.
Officials warned that Irma’s heavy storm surge — seawater driven on land by high winds — could bring floods of up to 15 feet along the state’s western Gulf Coast. It submerged the highway that connects the isolated Florida Keys archipelago with the mainland and small whitecapped waves could be seen in flooded streets between Miami office towers.
“There is a serious threat of significant storm surge flooding along the entire west coast of Florida,” Gov. Rick Scott told a press conference. “This is a life-threatening situation.”
Irma is expected to cause billions of dollars in damage to the third-most-populous US state, a major tourism hub with an economy comprising about 5 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP).
At least 1.6 million Florida homes and businesses had lost power, according to Florida Power & Light and other utilities.
The National Hurricane Center forecast that its center eye will move near or over the state’s west coast later.
The storm winds downed a construction crane and shook tall buildings in Miami, which was about 95 miles from Irma’s core.
Deme Lomas, who owns Miami restaurant Niu Kitchen, said he saw a crane torn apart by winds and dangling from the top of the building.
“We couldn’t hear it come down because of the loud wind, but when we just took a look it was pulled apart into a mess,” Lomas said in a phone interview from his 35th-floor apartment. “We feel the building swaying all the time ... It’s like being on a ship.”
Miami streets were flooded as the water crept up on and around Brickell Avenue, which runs around 550 feet from the waterfront through the city’s financial district and newly built high rises.
“There’s water everywhere,” said Chaim Lipskar, rabbi at the Rok Family Shul that is sheltering a few families through the storm. “It’s up and down Brickell and all over the side streets.”
South Florida’s large population of elderly residents posed a severe test for the emergency shelters, many of which were not equipped for people with elaborate medical needs.
Irma is now a Category 4 storm, the second-highest designation on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
One woman in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood delivered her own baby, with medical personnel coaching her on the phone because emergency responders were not able to reach her, the city of Miami said on Twitter. The two are now at the hospital, it said.
Irma comes just days after Hurricane Harvey dumped record-setting rain in Texas, causing unprecedented flooding, killing at least 60 people and leaving an estimated $180 billion in property damage in its wake. Almost three months remain in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through November.
US President Donald Trump spoke to the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee on Sunday and issued a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, which was hit by the storm last week, the White House said.


Russia’s coronavirus cases surpass 885,000

Updated 5 min 53 sec ago

Russia’s coronavirus cases surpass 885,000

  • Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said 77 people had died over the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia reported 5,189 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, bringing its nationwide tally to 887,536, the fourth largest caseload in the world.
Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said 77 people had died over the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 14,931.