Evacuation starts in Florida as Hurricane Ike looms

By Xinhua,

Washington : Residents in the U.S. Florida Keys area started a phased evacuation on Sunday morning as the powerful Hurricane Ike looms.

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According to an ABC news report, visitors have been asked to leave the Florida Keys, an archipelago of about 1,700 islands, which stretches from the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula.

The Florida-based National Hurricane Center said that as of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the Ike’s eye was just east of Great Inagua Island in the Bahamas at Category 4 and moving at nearly 217 kilometers per hour.

It was forecast to hit the Florida Keys on Monday night on its potential track to the central Gulf, the center said.

At a meeting with local government and emergency officials, Florida Governor Charlie Crist noted the need to be “prepared, smart, vigilant and alert” with the storms that “have a mind of their own.”

The state government has issued the order on phased evacuation starting at the end in Key West from early morning and throughout the day.

Ike has reportedly damaged more than 80 percent of the homes on Grand Turk and South Caicos islands and left hundreds without their roofs and boats.