×

FEMA estimates 25% of Florida Keys homes are gone

  • A bed sits amongst the remains of a home demolished from Hurricane Irma in Goodland, Fla., Tuesday. ap photo

  • A member of the Arizona Task Force 1 search and rescue team knocks on doors while checking on homes and their owners after Hurricane Irma in Goodland, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • A man paddles a kayak near a flooded home along the Alafia River Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Lithia, Fla. A storm surge from Hurricane Irma pushed water into the low lying area. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Chris O'Meara

  • A man, who refused to be identified, pushes a canoe through water from the Alafia River Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Lithia, Fla. A storm surge from Hurricane Irma pushed water into the low lying area. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Chris O'Meara

  • Alfonso Jose Jr., 2, is floated down his flooded street by his parents in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., Tuesday. ap photo

  • Rob Brehm cleans up debris from his home as a demolished house sits across the street after Hurricane Irma in Goodland, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Damaged homes sit in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Key West, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Chris O'Meara

  • A sailboat is pushed up between two buildings in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Key West, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Chris O'Meara

  • Angelina Ventura, left, and Jose Gonzalez retrieve belongings from their flooded home in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Jose Lopez floats his son Jose Jr, 1, in a splash pool as they retrieve belongings from their flooded home following Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Jose Encarnacion pulls a chicken out from a cage as he retrieves belongings from his flooded home following Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Children's bicycles are flooded outside a home as Ezequiel Cruz retrieves belongings in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Pierre Ghantos, left, and his son Nathan paddle though their flooded neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Fort Myers, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Damaged houses are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in the Florida Keys. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool) Matt McClain

  • Sandra Pagan, left, escapes the heat inside her home with her dog Goldo and nephew Misael Fernandez after Hurricane Irma flooded their neighborhood leaving them without power and impassable with their cars in Fort Myers, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. "It's unbearable," said Pagan who rode out the storm in the home with her family. "We can't sleep at all. It's so hot." (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman



Associated Press
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LOWER MATECUMBE KEY, Fla. — Search-and-rescue teams made their way into the Florida Keys’ farthest reaches Tuesday, while authorities rushed to repair the lone highway connecting the islands and deliver aid to Hurricane Irma’s victims. Federal officials estimated one-quarter of all homes in the Keys were destroyed.

Two days after Irma roared into the island chain with 130 mph winds, residents were allowed to return to the parts of the Keys closest to Florida’s mainland.

But the full extent of the death and destruction there remained a question mark because cellphone service was disrupted and some places were inaccessible.

“It’s going to be pretty hard for those coming home,” said Petrona Hernandez, whose concrete home on Plantation Key with 35-foot walls was unscathed, unlike others a few blocks away. “It’s going to be devastating to them.”

Elsewhere in Florida, life inched closer to normal, with some flights again taking off, many curfews lifted and major theme parks reopening. Cruise ships that extended their voyages and rode out the storm at sea began returning to port with thousands of passengers.

The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat dropped to around 10 million — half of Florida’s population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 people remained in shelters across Florida.

The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 12, in addition to four in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.

In hard-hit Naples, on Florida’s southwest coast, more than 300 people stood outside a Publix grocery store in the morning, waiting for it to open.

At the front of the line after a more than two-hour wait, Phill Chirchirillo, 57, said days without electricity and other basics were beginning to wear on people.

“At first it’s like, ‘We’re safe, thank God.’ Now they’re testy,” he said. “The order of the day is to keep people calm.”

Irma’s rainy remnants, meanwhile, pushed through Alabama and Mississippi after drenching Georgia. Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued around the Southeast.

While nearly all of Florida was engulfed by the 400-mile-wide storm, the Keys — home to about 70,000 people — appeared to be the hardest hit. Drinking water and power were cut off, all three of the islands’ hospitals were closed, and the supply of gasoline was extremely limited.

Officials said it was not known how many people ignored evacuation orders to stay behind in the Keys.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said that preliminary estimates suggested that 25 percent of the homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 percent sustained major damage.