Residents return to their homes as Hurricane Irma scatters across the US


Millions of people evacuated from Florida due to Hurricane Irma, have begun to return to their homes, while search and rescue teams scour the are in search for potential survivors.

Evacuees from Hurricane Irma were early on Wednesday returning to the Florida Keys, where sunrise will give them a first glimpse of devastation that has left countless homes and businesses in ruins. Categorized as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, Irma claimed more than 60 lives so far, officials said.

At least 18 people died in Florida and destruction was widespread in the Keys, where Irma made initial U.S. landfall on Sunday to become the second major hurricane to strike the mainland this season.


Emergency crews, National and Coast Guard are still scouring evacuated areas in search for missing individuals

A resort island chain that stretches from the tip of the state into the Gulf of Mexico, the Keys are connected by a bridges and causeways along a narrow route of nearly 100 miles (160 km). “I don’t have a house. I don’t have a job. I have nothing,” said Mercedes Lopez, 50, whose family fled north from the Keys town of Marathon on Friday and rode out the storm at an Orlando hotel, only to learn their home was destroyed, along with the gasoline station where she worked.

For most Florida Keys residents, recovery is far from over, and there’s a one in four chance that those returning won’t be able to live in what they come home to find. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 25% of houses on the archipelago are destroyed. About 65% are damaged, according to FEMA’s initial figures. Drone footage shows vehicles crawling down the southbound lanes of US 1, also known as the Overseas Highway. The 113-mile thoroughfare carries travelers from the southern tip of Florida over more than 40 bridges to Key West.

Authorities in Florida Keys checking car drivers before letting them return to their abandoned homes

Elsewhere in Florida, life inched closer to normal, with some flights again taking off, many curfews lifted and major theme parks reopening. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but everybody’s going to come together,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “We’re going to get this state rebuilt. This state is a state of strong resilient people.”

Authorities stopped people and checked for documentation such as proof of residency or business ownership before allowing them back into the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada.
European countries and the United States – responding to damage on the US Virgin Islands – have sent troops to deliver aid and provide security after the storm toppled homes and hospitals, but locals and tourists short of food or shelter say help was slow to arrive.

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