Irma strengthens when it closes on Florida

Wind gusts close to hurricane force are battering islands in Florida’s south as Hurricane Irma is due to hit the mainland in the coming hours.

Water levels are already rising on the coast of the US state where a huge storm surge isexpected.Some 6.3 million people had been told to evacuate, but the state governor said on Saturday it was now too late to leave for anyone remaining. At least 24 people have died after Irma earlier hit several Caribbean islands. With maximum sustained winds of 120mph (193km/h), Irma hurricane has now weakened to a category three hurricane after making landfall in Cuba’s north-east late on Friday, the National Hurricane Center(NHC) says in its latest advisory at 03:00 GMT on Sunday. But Irma is expected to strengthen and will remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida, the NHC says. It warns that a “life-threatening storm surge” is expected in the Florida Keys – a chain of small islands in Florida’s south – and also thewest coast of Florida. Staying behind is ‘almost like suicide’

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Irma strengthens when it closes on Florida

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