'Category 5' Hurricane Irma heads to Florida, 5.6 million evacuated

ANI | Updated: Sep 09, 2017 19:55 IST

Florida [U.S.A], September 9 (ANI): As many as 5.6 million people have been evacuated as life-threatening category-5 Hurricane Irma is heading towards Florida, the south-easternmost U.S. state after making landfall in Cuba.

"The storm is here," Governor. Rick Scott said at news conference on Saturday, noting that 25,000 people had already lost power.

He said the storm surge could reach 12 feet. "This will cover your house," he said. "You will not survive all this storm surge."

A curfew comes into effect in Palm Beach from 3 p.m. local time on Saturday. Hurricane Irma, regaining to category-5 intensity, is causing tropical storm-force winds in Florida with speed 140 miles per hour ahead of its arrival. Outer rain bands have already reached the peninsula.

Officials predict Irma will bring heavy rains and possible 12-foot storm surges in some parts of Florida, requiring military ships, aircraft and thousands of troops to help in evacuation, rescue and response efforts.

Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction and death across the Caribbean and prompted large scale evacuations in American history.

Forecasters said Irma, a hurricane of remarkable size and power that already has battered islands across the Caribbean, would approach South Florida by Sunday morning and is likely to slam into its southern tip before tracking north across a heavily populated area.

The National Weather Service says that damaging winds are moving into areas including Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and South Miami, CNN reported.

Gusts of up to 56 mph (90 kph) were reported on Virginia Key off Miami as the storm's outer bands arrived. The Hurricane is currently moving along the coast of Cuba about 215 miles away from Miami, as it makes its way towards the U.S. peninsula.

Ships, military personnel and equipment have been deployed to respond to Hurricane Irma. So far, the Pentagon has sent six ships, an aircraft carrier, numerous aircraft and thousands of gallons of fuel to the region, as well as activated thousands of National Guard troops in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) activated the Florida National Guard on Tuesday in anticipation of the hurricane. About 4,000 troops were activated on Friday, and Scott said he expected the entire force of more than 8,000 would eventually be called into duty.

Puerto Rico, meanwhile, activated its 5,200 National Guard troops, while the U.S. Virgin Islands activated its nearly 700-member unit for assistance, according to the Pentagon.

United States President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said on Friday that he had spoken to Pentagon and State Department officials and insisted they were prepared to tackle Irma response efforts quickly.(ANI)