Record-setting Hurricane Irma, which began as a Category 5 storm, has weakened but continued a furious climb up the Florida coast on Monday, toppling cranes, swallowing streets and leaving millions without power, after a multi-billion-dollar rampage through the Caribbean. At least 30 people have been killed.
The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, after striking the Florida Keys island chain as a more powerful Category 4 on Sunday. But warnings of hazardous storm surges remained in effect through vast swaths of the Florida peninsula.
Maximum sustained winds had decreased to 75 miles (120 kilometres) per hour as of 5:00 am local time (0900 GMT).
While southwest Florida bore the deadly brunt of Irma, the eastern coastlines of Miami and the barrier island of Miami Beach were heavily inundated by storm surges.
The death toll is at least 30: 14 in the French island of St Barts and the neighboring Dutch-French territory of St Martin; six in the British Caribbean islands; at least four in the US Virgin Islands; at least two in Puerto Rico; and one in Barbuda. Three other deaths occurred in Florida due to car accidents sparked by strong winds and torrential rain.
In Florida, more than six million customers were without power, according to the state’s Division of Emergency Management. More than six million people had been ordered to flee their homes in one of the biggest evacuations in US history.
The combined economic cost of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could reach $290 billion, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the US gross domestic product, US forecaster AccuWeather said in a report.