Britons in the path of devastating Hurricane Irma have been warned the situation may “deteriorate significantly” as the strengthening storm arrived in Florida.
Irma regained its category four status as it arrived in the Florida Keys, sending “embedded tornadoes” across the southern parts of the state and the threat of a life-threatening storm surge.
The hurricane has already claimed at least 20 lives, paving a path of destruction across the British Virgin Islands and battered the north coast of Cuba before arriving in the Sunshine State late on Saturday.
The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) has warned the storm will bring 110 mph-plus winds, torrential rain and storm surges of up to 15ft.
More than six million people in Florida and Georgia have been urged to leave their homes and Florida governor Rick Scott called on anyone still in areas at risk to follow evacuation orders, telling them: “This is clearly a life-threatening situation.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said work is underway to make sure British expats and tourists in Florida are protected but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said its ability to provide assistance to British citizens may be “extremely limited”, advising those affected to make their own contingency plans.
Nearly 500 British troops have been sent to Caribbean islands ravaged by Hurricane Irma as Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the relief operation was “well under way”.
Marines, engineers, medics and specialists, including Army and RAF personnel, have been deployed in the region.
The Ministry of Defence said their priority was “establishing security and law and order before providing humanitarian assistance before the arrival of Hurricane Jose”.