Heavy squalls with tornadoes from Irma sweep south Florida: NHC

Heavy squalls with tornadoes from Irma sweep south Florida: NHC

Florida is bracing itself as Hurricane Irma hurtles towards the U.S. state, having left a trail of devastation in its wake over the past few days.

Irma's centre is predicted to strike the Florida Keys sometime on Sunday, then hit southwestern Florida, move up the state's Gulf Coast and plow into the Tampa Bay area.

Hurricane Jose was pulling away from the northern Leeward Islands and was expected to weaken in intensity on Sunday and Monday, the National Hurricane Center said. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said anyone who stayed on the archipelago will have to wait for help if they need it.

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The government-sponsored shelters were open Saturday as officials warned 6.3 million Floridians to evacuate. Speaking from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, he urged people to heed evacuation orders.

Hurricane Irma was about 110 miles (175 km) southeast of Key West, Florida, and heavy squalls carrying tornadoes were sweeping across south Florida, the National Hurricane Center said on Saturday. The Governor said that 76,000 customers had already lost power. This means hurricane conditions and a life-threatening storm surge are expected within 36 hours.

At least five people have died in British overseas territories, according to media reports on Saturday, including one on the island of Anguilla and another four on the British Virgin Islands.

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