'Pray for us': West Florida braces as Hurricane Irma engulfs state

Hurricane Irma rips through Cuba on its way to Florida

Hurricane Irma rips through Cuba on its way to Florida

Florida has been pounded hard by what President Donald Trump called "some big monster", as Hurricane Irma tore into the state, leaving a trail of damage and death and causing destruction that will likely take weeks to fix.

Miami seemingly dodged a bullet, but Florida's densely populated and ill-prepared Tampa region came into the cross hairs as Hurricane Irma barrelled up the west coast of the southern state through Sunday US time.

Next, Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

- As many as 5.7 million customers are without power across Florida, according to Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Irma is expected to sap demand for fuel for a time, analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a note Monday, though they cautioned supply could remain strained due to refining capacity offline in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas two weeks ago.

Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon said officials would wait until first light on Monday to begin rescue efforts and assess damage, adding he did not have yet any numbers on fatalities statewide.

A weakened but still unsafe Irma pushed inland Monday as it hammered Florida with winds that created hazards for rescuers and flooding that set a record in one city.

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with 75 miles per hour winds as it moves swiftly north-northwest at 18 miles per hour. FEMA chief Brock Long said some places won't have electricity for weeks.

- In Miami-Dade County, police said they arrested 28 people for burglary and looting.

Five storm-related deaths have reported so far in the U.S. state, after Irma crossed ten Caribbean countries and territories, killing at least 28 people.

Television footage from various locations across the east of the state showed palm trees bent over under the force of huge winds, driving rain and flash floods caused by the storm surge. There's a hurricane warning in effect here too and the wind is howling and whipping the rain at my window. Airport spokesman Andrew Gobeil said Friday that officials are in close contact with the FAA and will monitor the path of Hurricane Irma.

The utilities had thousands of workers, some from as far away as California, ready to help restore power once Irma's high winds pass their service areas.

And more than 120 homes were being evacuated early Monday in Orange County, just outside the city of Orlando, as floodwaters started to pour in. Schools in the state planned to close Monday. About 155,000 people had taken refuge in 573 shelters across the state.

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