Almost six million Americans have been urged to evacuate the US states of Florida and Georgia as superstorm Hurricane Irma builds momentum once again to a category 5 storm.
The massive evacuation has been deemed the largest in US history, with more than 5.6 million residents – one quarter of Florida’s population – ordered to leave their homes.
In Palm Beach, President Donald Trump’s waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate was under an evacuation order.
In Georgia, 540,000 people living near the coast have received mandatory evacuation orders.
Tracking models, which initially indicated the monster winds would hit Florida’s east coast, are now suggesting Irma will scour the western side of the Florida peninsula and head up the coast, bringing storm surges up to 4.6 meters and flooding in some areas.
The latest projections say the Gulf Coast city of Tampa will face the full brunt of the superstorm.
The evacuations come as the death toll from Hurricane Irma rises to 25, and Cuba becomes the latest nation to be pummelled.
A further two hurricanes – Jose, a Category 4, and Katia, a Category 2,were threatening the region, which had felt Irma’s full impact, but those dangers have now receded somewhat, disaster officials and monitoring agencies said.
To the east, Katia was spinning in the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane ultimately made landfall in the capital state of Veracruz. Two people died in Xalapa when mud, loosened from a hillside by Katia’s rains, trapped them in their home.
— ABC News (@ABC) September 9, 2017
Meanwhile, Jose is expected to move away from the northern Leeward Islands and should gradually begin to weaken on Sunday
With Irma expected to hit Florida on Sunday (local time), Governor Rick Scott told southern Floridians to get out or seek shelter nearby and hunker down.
The US National Hurricane Centres says Hurricane Irma is predicted to move to the Florida Keys on Sunday morning (local time), then to the south-west coast of Florida by Sunday afternoon.
“We don’t want anybody on these roads when the storm’s coming through,” Mr Scott said.
“So we’re telling people in those counties in the southern part of the state: ‘If you’re on the road by midnight, don’t get on the road’,” he said.
“We have shelters in your community. Go to those shelters.”
Hurricane Irma had earlier been downgraded to a category 4, but as the storm regained strength, the National Hurricane Centre upgraded it back to a Category 5, reporting sustained winds of 258kp/h.
National Hurricane Centre meteorologist and spokesman Dennis Feltgen said the storm had a “really wide eye”, with hurricane-force winds that would cover the entire Florida peninsula with potential deadly storm surges on both coasts.
Floridians fleeing Hurricane Irma turned freeways across the south-east US into a sea of brake lights as many headed to Atlanta, Montgomery or Nashville to escape the storm.
Lines of 100 to 150 cars have formed at petrol stations, and hotel and motels are flashing their ‘No Vacancy’ signs as millions look for shelter.
In a video statement, US President Donald Trump said Hurricane Irma was a storm of “absolutely historic destructive potential”.
“I ask everyone in the storm’s path to be vigilant and to heed all recommendations from government officials and law enforcement,” Mr Trump said.
The US president cautionied those in Irma’s path to “get out of its way” and not brave the horrendous winds in vain and doomed attempts to save homes and possessions.
Property is replaceable, he said, but human are not.
Hurricane Irma leaves path of destruction across Caribbean, as region prepares for Hurricane Jose
Thousands of Irma victims across the Caribbean are seeking shelter as they await Hurricane Jose hitting the already ravaged region.
Hurricane Irma smashed homes, shops, roads and schools and suspended vital commodities, knocking out power, water and telephone services.
The death toll has climbed to 25 people, while Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the eastern part of Cuba are yet to report major causalities.
The Caribbean island of Barbuda, reeling from the destruction Irma left in her wake, is preparing to face for Hurricane Jose.
The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda has confirmed that more than 90 per cent of the island’s buildings were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds near 250kp/h and had been expected to hit Barbuda before granting the already shattered island a reprieve and veering off the course projected by initial meteorological models.
Hurricane Irma made landfall in Cuba on Friday evening (local time) and is still moving directly over Cuba’s Camaguey archipelago.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia is making landfall north of Tecolutla, Mexico, as the country recovers from an earthquake that killed more than 60 people.
– with ABC and wires