As the death toll from Hurricane Irma climbs to 23 in the United States, residents of the Florida Keys are returning to a much different landscape than the one they left last week. As many as 25 percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday evening, and as many as 65 percent of homes suffered major damage.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage. Monroe County officials on Tuesday night were quick to counter FEMA estimates, saying no official estimates of percentages or dollar amounts of damages had been done.
“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,” Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said in a statement released by the county Tuesday night.
Search-and-rescue teams are still going door to door in the hardest hit areas of the Keys, including Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key, where Irma came ashore.
Keys residents are now returning to their homes, with the Florida Department of Transportation saying all 42 bridges along U.S. 1 — the only road into and out of the Keys — have been inspected and cleared. Amenities are another story, however. Monroe County officials say gas is “limited” and AT&T was working to restore cellphone service.
The Lower Keys are still completely without power, but the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, which provides service to the Upper Keys, says about 30 percent of the region does now have electricity. Some areas, mostly in the Upper Keys, have water, but food and water distribution stations have been set up in Key West. Anyone who does have water is being asked to boil it before drinking or cooking.
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