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Hurricane Irma: Millions warned to flee Florida now

Storm blasted through Cuba towards to the US, shifting its path to target the west of the state.

A fire truck in a street in Caibarien, Cuba
A fire truck in a street in Caibarien, Cuba AP

Millions of people have been told to evacuate from Florida as Hurricane Irma blasted through Cuba towards to the US, shifting its path to target the west of the state.

The storm has already devastated parts of the Caribbean and left at least 22 dead, causing destruction in the UK territories of Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands.

British police officers will be deployed along with almost 500 troops as part of the country's efforts to step up support to the Caribbean islands.

Irma battered Cuba on Saturday, gaining strength and returning to a Category Five level as it made landfall on Friday night, with wind speeds reaching up to 160 mph.

US officials have warned Irma, now downgraded to a Category Three storm but expected to strength again, will bring "life-threatening wind, storm surge and rainfall" when it arrives at the Florida Keys and Tampa on Sunday.

"You need to leave now, do not wait," said Florida Governor Rick Scott. "Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour, you need to go right now."

Many shelters in Florida are already full.
Many shelters in Florida are already full. ITV News

Mr Scott said there could be a "six to 12 foot" storm surge. "This will cover your house," he said.

A total of 5.6 million people - 25% of the state's population - have been urged to leave voluntarily, while mandatory evacuations have been declared in some areas.

Thousands more face being caught up in the hurricane as Irma shifted westward, meaning that its centre is now expected to move over the west side of the state's peninsula, rather than the east as originally forecast.

Governor Scott warned those in the low-lying Keys to get out within hours or be prepared to weather the storm on their own as the authorities will not risk sending emergency services into the hurricane's centre.

"If you are planning to leave and do not leave tonight, you will have to ride out this extremely dangerous storm at your own risk," he said.

The biggest evacuation in Miami's history has left its streets eerily quiet as the city braces itself to face the eye of the storm.

Some of the city's shelters are already full.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the British government was working with US authorities to ensure British expats and tourists were protected in the Sunshine State.

Following a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee, Mrs May said: "I heard directly from our consul general in Miami about the support that is being given to British nationals living in Florida and also British tourists in Florida.

"We are, of course, working with the US authorities to ensure that every support is available and everything can be done before Hurricane Irma reaches Florida."

Evacuees are moved to another building while sheltering at Florida International University.
Evacuees are moved to another building while sheltering at Florida International University. AP

Hurricane Irma has already devastated parts of the Caribbean and left at least 22 dead. Many islands remain without power, water or telephone service and the area faces further destruction as Hurricane Jose, a category four storm, is set to hit the islands over the weekend.

Many residents who had stayed in their homes during Irma have fled their islands on ferries and fishing boats fearing a second pounding.

The predicted path of the Hurricane Irma
The predicted path of the Hurricane Irma Google

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