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Hurricane Charley Cleanup Continues in Florida - 2004-08-16

Residents of southwestern Florida continued cleaning up after Hurricane Charley. The storm killed at least 15 people in Florida, four people in Cuba and one person in Jamaica before losing its strength and moving out into the Atlantic Ocean. Authorities in Florida say Charley was the most expensive storm to strike their state in more than a decade, and it could be weeks before essential services are restored to hard-hit areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in parts of southwestern Florida, and local officials say it could be weeks before power is restored to the storm-battered towns of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, as well as barrier islands along the coast.

Hurricane Charley struck the region with 230-kilometer-an-hour winds and a four-meter storm surge, becoming the most powerful storm to hit southwest Florida in more than 40 years. Several days after Charley struck, many residents are still in shock. These two men told a local television station that neighbors are joining together to help each other.

"We are going out to see each other, and see how each one is doing in the aftermath," said one man. "Each one has a special thing they can help each other with. One person has an artesian well, so we can get some water. Where I work, we have a boat where we can get some extra gas. This gentleman has some financial knowledge to help us with insurance. We have met neighbors that we have not met before, and different people are helping other people."

Red Cross officials say they have set up eight mobile kitchens and feeding centers that can serve up to 9,000 people.

Federal emergency officials say Florida has requested emergency housing for 10,000 people. Four thousand National Guard troops have been mobilized to help with relief efforts and prevent any looting. Florida state officials say more than 2,000 insurance adjusters are analyzing claims, and 2,000 more will be in the area in coming days.

Hurricane Charley is the worst storm to strike Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew caused $19 billion in damage. Initial damage estimates for Hurricane Charley indicate the storm caused between $5 billion and $11 billion worth of damage, based on the value of homes and insurance polices on property in the storm's path.