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South Florida Recovering from Wilma Damage


Residents in the southern state of Florida have begun cleaning up the damage from hurricane Wilma -- the latest storm in the bussiest hurricane season on record. Millions of people are still without electricity.

Floridians began lining up for ice, water and gasoline on Tuesday as they assessed the damage from hurrican Wilma, which caused as much as $9 billion in damage when it cut across the Florida peninsula with winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour.

In Washington, acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison said 17,000 people were still in dozens of shelters the day after the storm.

He said several major roads remained closed because of water and debris, including the two-lane highway between Miami and Key West, at Florida's southern tip. "US 1 in the Keys is still experiencing high tides and it's not open to the general public, but we are able to get our supply trucks through. We diverted around some of the roads. We were able to get supplies and emergency equipment down there," he said.

Mr. Paulison said almost three million customers were without electrical power. He said half of them should get it back within a week, for others it could be as long as one month. The lack of electricity means that many service stations are unable to pump gasoline and diesel fuel.

Rand Napoli, the director of the state's Fire Marshal's Office, said the speed with which Wilma crossed the Florida penninsula was a reason for a low death toll. "The surprise, obviously, and a very happy surprise, was that we did not have a situation where we had lots of rescues or in the worst case, casualties," he said.

Several airports, including those in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West, will remain closed until Wednesday. More than 2,000 fights in and out of South Florida were canceled because of hurricane Wilma.

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