Monster Irma causes widespread damage
Monster Irma causes widespread damage

Monster Irma causes widespread damage


Large parts of Florida remain at risk from potentially life-threatening storm surges after Hurricane Irma tore a devastating path through the state, with roof-ripping winds and gushing floodwaters leaving millions without power.

The "monster" hurricane measuring more than 400 miles wide was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday afternoon - with its maximum winds decreasing to around 70mph - as it moved over Florida towards southern Georgia.

As Irma carved north through the state after battering Miami, Tampa and other urban areas, the full extent of its destructive march remained unclear as many communication lines had been cut.

Warnings of hazardous storm surges remain in effect through vast swaths of the state from which six million people fled in one of the biggest evacuations in US history.

The storm could still cause widespread storm surge damage - which is when hurricanes push ocean water dangerously over normal levels - when it hits north Florida, southern Georgia and South Carolina on Monday afternoon and evening.

"As little as six inches of moving water can knock you down," said the state's governor Rick Scott following the downgrade. "Stay inside. Stay safe."

After wreaking a trail of death and destruction through the Caribbean - killing at least 38 people after 10 were confirmed to have died in Cuba - Irma caused the deaths of four people after striking the southern Florida Keys island chain on Sunday.

As many as 10,000 people are believed to have stayed in their homes in the Florida Keys to ride out the hurricane, officials said, as the local emergency manager warned of a looming "humanitarian crisis".

An estimated 5.8 million properties remain without power throughout the state, with utility officials estimating it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

Irma sucked the ocean water out of bays, swamped much of downtown Miami and toppled at least three constructions cranes.

Describing the hurricane as "some big monster", President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida.