After raking Caribbean, Irma gains strength, targets Florida

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ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – After battering Cuba early Saturday and leaving more than 20 dead across the Caribbean, newly strengthened Irma is taking aim at south Florida with 160 mph winds as another hurricane follows close behind.

Irma regained Category 5 status late Friday as thousands of people in the Caribbean fought desperately to find shelter or escape their storm-blasted islands and more than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia were warned to leave their homes.

Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the eastern part of Cuba reported no major casualties or damage by mid-afternoon Friday after Irma rolled north of the Caribbean’s biggest islands.PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma

Many residents and tourists were left reeling after the storm ravaged some of the world’s most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. Among them: St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Irma smashed homes, shops, roads and schools; knocked out power, water and telephone service; trapped thousands of tourists; and stripped trees of their leaves, leaving an eerie, blasted-looking landscape littered with sheet metal and splintered lumber.MORE: Complete coverage of Hurricane Irma

On Friday, looting and gunshots were reported on St. Martin, and a curfew was imposed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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