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A record 6.3 million people evacuated as Florida awaits Hurricane Irma

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A record 6.3 million people evacuated as Florida awaits Hurricane Irma

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After battering the north coast of Cuba, Hurricane Irma is heading towards the US southern state of Florida.

In one of the country’s largest evacuations, about 6.3 million people – more than one-quarter of the state’s population – were ordered to leave.

People have also been gathering in shelters with their families and pets.

The Mayor of Miami Beach has urged people to either leave town or stay indoors.

Philip Levine said: “I am happy when I see no people, walking on the streets, there’s really no people on the streets. That’s the most important that our message has gotten out there.

“Everyone needs to evacuate, whether you’re a visitor, or you’re a resident, you shouldn’t be in Miami Beach right now. This storm is powerful, it’s strong, it’s aggressive and it’s coming our way.”

The US National Hurricane Centre says while Irma has been downgraded to Category 3 storm with gusts of 130 mph, it is expected to strengthen and move up the state’s Gulf Coast towards Georgia.

Emergency officials in the state capital Atlanta have have ordered an evacuation of the state’s coastal residents .

On early Friday, Irma pounded the north coast of the province of Guantanamo, in Cuba particularly the towns of Maisi and Baracoa where it caused flooding.

More than 700,000 people, including 36,000 tourists, were evacuated.