Mexico + 2 more

Hurricane death toll rises in Florida as residents face cleanup

Washington (dpa) - Florida residents faced a huge cleanup Tuesday after Hurricane Wilma ripped through the Sunshine State, killing at least four people, leaving millions without electricity and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Two men died from falling trees, a woman was killed by flying debris and another man died after a roof collapsed on him, The Miami Herald reported. Several other bodies have been found, but it was unclear whether those deaths were hurricane-related.

Most residents of the Florida Keys, a group of islands located of Florida's tip, ignored an evacuation order, and some were surprised by the storm's ferocity. At least 36,000 sought refuge at emergency shelters, emergency officials said.

Wilma left 3.5 millions households without power after its brief but powerful visit to the state. After devastating the tourist region on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and killing at least eight there, the storm hit Florida's western coast early Monday with winds near 200 kilometres per hour.

The storm quickly crossed the state's peninsula but left behind flooding, destroyed homes, toppled trees and downed electricity poles.

Insurers indicated that the damage left in Florida could be as high as 10 billion dollars.

In Mexico, where the storm lingered for 24 hours before moving to Florida, Wilma destroyed or heavily damaged 110 hotels in the popular tourism centre of Cancun, the Diario de Yucatan newspaper reported.

Rebuilding the area could take four to five months, the paper said. Large parts of the city were without electricity and water and food for the 600,000 residents were scarce. There were reports of looting and police and soldiers patrolled Cancun's streets.

Following on Wilma's heels in the Caribbean was Tropical Storm Alpha, which killed at least 12 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Sunday before dissipating. dpa re tc


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