Massive Hurricane Irma batters Caribbean, tracks towards Florida
Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, already hit the eastern Caribbean. At least six people were killed.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Wednesday for parts of southern Florida and Puerto Rico ahead of Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm currently causing widespread damage in the Caribbean.
Miami-Dade County issued its first evacuation in 12 years for 7am Thursday for various towns along the coast, including Miami Beach, in advance of the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.
This comes after Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys, ordered "residents and all visitors, tourists and non-residents" to evacuate on Wednesday evening.
The evacuations have triggered an exodus from Florida, causing massive delays on roads leaving the Sunshine State.
Major queues were seen from Key Largo to Lake Park, Georgia, with the I-75 northbound at a complete standstill, epa photographers reported.
Florida Governor Rick Scott spoke to United States President Donald Trump on Monday night to request a "pre-landfall emergency" for the state in order "to provide important resources and assistance from the federal government and free up funding sources for emergency protective measures".
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and his counterpart from South Carolina Henry McMaster followed suit on Wednesday afternoon, declaring an emergency for counties along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts to free up emergency federal funds and trigger response preparations for authorities along the coast.
At least six people have died on the island of Saint Martin in the Lesser Antilles, after Hurricane Irma passed through the region, said the prefect of neighboring island Guadeloupe, Eric Maire, at a press conference Thursday.
The massive Hurricane Irma caused extensive property damage in Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, while the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola, are on alert in the early hours of Thursday.
Irma left at least one person dead, another 4,000 evacuated to shelters and one million without electricity in Puerto Rico. It also caused extensive structural damage in some islands of the Lesser Antilles.