Irma death toll rises; recovery cost soars

MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Irma laid waste to beautiful Caribbean islands and caused historic destruction across Florida. The cleanup will take weeks; recovery will take months. Some islanders just want out. And after a huge exodus from the Florida peninsula, southbound traffic remains heavy with evacuees returning to uncertain situations, many without power or water in sweltering heat and humidity .

BY THE NUMBERS

— People still without electricity: 6.8 million — about a third of Florida’s population — and hundreds of thousands in Georgia, with utilities saying it could take 10 days or more before all have power.

— People still in shelters in Florida: 13,000.

— Money raised by Tuesday night’s star-studded “Hand in Hand” telethon for Harvey and Irma victims: $44 million. Potential cost of damage to privately insured property in U.S. and the Caribbean: $55 billion.

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IMAGES OF IRMA

The images captured by Associated Press photographers show the depth and breadth of Irma’s devastation in a way that words cannot.

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THE DEATH TOLL

The confirmed death toll from Hurricane Irma stood at 61 Wednesday morning. With the electrocution of a utility worker in the British Virgin Islands, at least 38 people were killed across the Caribbean. In the U.S., 23 deaths were reported in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Also, police are conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths of eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, that lost power in the storm. The owner has been accused of health care fraud . As in other disasters, Irma poses particular risks to the elderly .

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WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS?

The lower Keys remain off-limits as crews check 42 bridges on the only highway to the mainland. County officials are pushing back against an initial estimate by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 percent of homes were destroyed and nearly all the rest heavily damaged. Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers says “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.” Search-and-rescue teams haven’t found casualties in door-to-door searches, but they’re not entering shuttered homes.

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THE CARIBBEAN

The Dutch, British and French governments are getting heat from islanders who say their recovery efforts have been slow and disorganized. French President Emmanuel Macron, overnighting on St. Martin before surveying St. Barts on Wednesday, said islanders have a…

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