Residents of the US state of Florida are making last minute preparations for Hurricane Irma. The superstorm is predicted to hit the US mainland as early as Saturday.
Officials say parts of Florida will be out of electricity for days, if not longer, and more than 100,000 people could need shelter.
“It’s not a question of if Florida’s going to be impacted, it’s a question of how bad Florida’s going to be impacted,” Brock Long, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said, “and where the storm ends up over the next four to five days as it passes inland.”
While Irma remains extremely dangerous, it has been downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 storm and its winds have slowed to 250 kmph, down from almost 300kmph at its peak.
NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 8, 2017
At least 18 people have been killed as Irma continues to churns through the Caribbean.
Emergency preparations are also underway in Cuba – another Caribbean island lying in the hurricane’s predicted path.
More than 50,000 tourists have been evacuated from coastal resorts and residents have been advised to move inland.
The Dominican Republic was lashed by fierce winds and rain that damaged houses and flooded areas along the country’s northern coast.
There have been no reported deaths but local officials have warned residents that “the worst isn’t over.”