Florida Keys compared to ‘war zone’ after Category 4 Irma rakes islands

KEY LARGO, Fla. (CBS News) — Hurricane Irma has battered the Florida Keys, destroying roadways and isolating residents who didn’t evacuate the string of islands, prompting one county’s emergency management director to call the situation a possible “humanitarian crisis.”


Irma’s powerful eye landed in the Keys as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday morning, swelling waterways to an estimated 10 to 15 feet in some areas, CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports.

CBS Miami reporter David Sutta had a hard time describing the devastation on Monday. “Best word I could say is war zone,” he said on Twitter. “People are walking to find family and friends. No one knows.”

Sutta reported that no cell phones or land lines are working below Key Largo.

He also tweeted images from several mobile park homes in the Keys, showing homes that were overturned and destroyed by the storm.

A limo that floated away and landed on US 1 in the Keys. CLICK TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS

Local, state and federal authorities are coordinating an airborne relief efforts to bring supplies to residents who didn’t evacuate the Keys, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastes told CBS Miami.

“We’ll get some water to them as far as the drinking water,” Gastesi told the station, adding that he’s confident authorities will be able to help the community recover and rebuild. “The keys are a very resilient community. We’ll be fine. This is the cost of living in paradise.”

Crews planned to go from house to house in the Keys in search for residents who need help. The county’s emergency management director, Bryan Koon, is calling the storm a possible “humanitarian crisis.”

Gov. Rick Scott announced he’ll join members of the U.S. Coast Guard for an aerial tour Monday afternoon to further assess the damage.

The National Weather Service’s Bill South stayed behind in Key West to work with first responders. “We have been busy just trying to get information out there to the people, to put them in the proper places to try to save their lives,” he said.


South believes the hardest hit areas will be between Big Coppitt Key and Marathon with the brunt focused on the island of Big Pine Key. Debris and a washout of the road have isolated Big Pine from the other Keys.

“Irma has officially passed and this is what she left,” said Michala Laufle, who rode out Irma in the Keys. She said she was scared but is glad she didn’t evacuate.

Irma, now a tropical storm, has left more than 7 million homes and businesses without power in several states.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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