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Monster Hurricane Irma Forces Airlines to Cancel 4,000 Flights


Passengers check the departure board at Miami International Airport, Sept. 7, 2017.

Deadly Hurricane Irma forced airlines to cancel over 4,000 flights to and from airports in the Caribbean and Florida in the first nine days of September.

Experts at the website also say that number could rise as the storm approaches Florida, home to Miami International Airport, one of the busiest in the world.

Miami usually sees over 1,200 flights a day to 150 destinations by 106 airlines. Miami Airport spokesman Mark Henderson says flights are expected to stop operating there late Friday.

Farther north at Orlando Airport, Carolyn Fennell tells VOA that flight operations will be suspended on Saturday at five in the afternoon. Orlando normally handles 850 flights per day to 105 destinations by 33 airlines.

Hurricane Irma is approaching Florida while officials are still counting the cost of the storm that slammed into Texas.

Hurricane Harvey pushed U.S. unemployment claims to the highest level in more than two years, after many workplaces in Texas were damaged by wind or submerged by floods.

On Thursday, Texas reported more than 51,000 new applications for financial assistance for newly-laid off workers. The state usually reports about 10,000 jobless claims per week. Outside Texas unemployment insurance claims did not change much, totaling 298,000 nationwide.

PNC Bank Chief Economist Gus Faucher says the labor market is "holding up" in the wake of the storm, and the economy remains close to full employment. Other experts say the jobs lost to storm damage may eventually be off-set by workers needed to rebuild homes and businesses. It is not yet clear how much impact Harvey will have on the nationwide unemployment rate.

A gas pump is covered after a gas station ran out of gas, Sept. 7, 2017, in Miami.
A gas pump is covered after a gas station ran out of gas, Sept. 7, 2017, in Miami.

Irma and the earlier storm Harvey are also causing headaches for the energy industry. Harvey closed refineries and other facilities, pushed up U.S. gasoline prices 5.8 cents per liter (22 cents a gallon), and caused some shortages in Texas.

Now many residents of Florida are fueling up and are fleeing Irma. Bloomberg reports 1,200 gas stations are out of fuel, and the seaports that resupply them are expected to close as the storm gets closer.

Reuters reports that Irma has shut oil terminals across the northern Caribbean, confounding efforts to resolve shortages caused by Harvey.