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Florida Keys evacuees told they cannot return home after Irma

Florida Keys evacuees told they cannot return home after Irma
From Reuters - September 11, 2017

FLORIDA CITY, Fla. (Reuters) - Residents who fled the Florida Keys in anticipation of Hurricane Irmas wrath were told they could not return to their island homes on Monday, news that angered evacuees anxious to get back to assess the damage.

Authorities reported widespread damage on the archipelago off the tip of southern Florida. At the White House, U.S. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said it could take weeks before many residents are able to return.

Miami-Dade police detective Alvaro Zabaleta, speaking on behalf of local officials, urged residents to head to a shelter on the mainland while authorities tried to restore power, water and medical service.

Some evacuees who had lingered at a police checkpoint in Florida City all day fumed, telling Zabaleta they needed to return to their houses to check on pets and clean up.

Next time Im staying in Key Largo one of them yelled.

Irma barreled into the Florida Keys on Sunday, bringing sustained winds of up to 130 mph (209 kph) and submerging the highway that connects the string of tropical islands with the rest of the state.

Ahead of the storm, one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic, officials said they were pleasantly surprised that tens of thousands of residents accustomed to the areas laidback lifestyle took evacuation orders to heart.

By Monday, the cooperative spirit started to unravel. At the checkpoint in Florida City, a Miami suburb, evacuees shouted at police and swore at media.

Some residents warned they would be less willing to leave next time if they were not allowed through soon.

Ive been in the Keys for 40 years, Shelby Bentley told reporters at a non-operational gas station. Its the first time Ive evacuated from a hurricane. Itll be my last time.

The Florida Keys are a popular tourist destination, drawing millions of visitors each year for fishing, diving and boating. American author Ernest Hemingway called Key West home for more than a decade, and his former house remains an attraction.

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