Hurricane Irma death toll rises, 90 percent of homes damaged in Florida Keys

As the death toll from Hurricane Irma climbs to 23 in the United States, residents of the Florida Keys are returning to a much different landscape than the one they left last week.

As many as 25 percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday evening, and as many as 65 percent of homes suffered major damage.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage.

 

PHOTO: Waterfront homes stand exposed after being damaged by Hurricane Irma, Sept. 12, 2017 in Marathon, Fla.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Waterfront homes stand exposed after being damaged by Hurricane Irma, Sept. 12, 2017 in Marathon, Fla.

 

 

PHOTO: Reynaldo Martinez surveys the debris deposited in his backyard after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Marathon, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017.Erik S. Lesser/EPA
Reynaldo Martinez surveys the debris deposited in his backyard after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Marathon, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017.more +

 

Monroe County officials on Tuesday night were quick to counter FEMA estimates, saying no official estimates of percentages or dollar amounts of damages had been done.

"Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses," Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said in a statement released by the county Tuesday night.

 

This image released by the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners shows debris along the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Recovery along the island chain continues after Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday aThe Associated Press
This image released by the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners shows debris along the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Recovery along the island chain continues after Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday amore +

 

Search-and-rescue teams are still going door to door in the hardest hit areas of the Keys, including Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key, where Irma came ashore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keys residents are now returning to their homes, with the Florida Department of Transportation saying all 42 bridges along U.S. 1 -- the only road into and out of the Keys -- have been inspected and cleared.

Amenities are another story, however. Monroe County officials say gas is "limited" and AT&T was working to restore cellphone service.

The Lower Keys are still completely without power, but the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, which provides service to the Upper Keys, says about 30 percent of the region does now have electricity.

Some areas, mostly in the Upper Keys, have water, but food and water distribution stations have been set up in Key West. Anyone who does have water is being asked to boil it before drinking or cooking.

 

PHOTO: Mike Gilbert hugs his daughter Brooke while looking at a destroyed three-story condominium building after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Islamorada, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. The Gilbert family owns a unit in the building.Erik S. Lesser/EPA
Mike Gilbert hugs his daughter Brooke while looking at a destroyed three-story condominium building after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Islamorada, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. The Gilbert family owns a unit in the building.more +

 

"It's only been 48 hours after the storm hit and it's absolutely remarkable what has been accomplished," Florida State Sen. Anitere Flores said on Tuesday's conference call.

At least 23 people in the United States -- 16 in Florida, four in South Carolina and three in Georgia -- have died as a result of Irma, according to officials. Causes of deaths included car crashes as well as carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of a generator.


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