Hurricane leaves its mark on Florida

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The Independent Online
HURRICANE ANDREW, with gusts of up to 168mph, slammed into south Florida early yesterday, lashing the area for about eight hours.

The damage it caused as it cut across the peninsula was extensive, making it possibly the most devastating hurricane to hit the state since 1937.

Nine people were reported killed, hundreds injured and, according to officials in Dade County, which includes Miami and Miami Beach, thousands had been made homeless.

President George Bush, who was due to fly to the state last night, has declared south Florida a federal disaster area.

Initially it looked as if the state had escaped the anticipated damage of a category four hurricane. The Bahamas, which absorbed the initial impact of the storm, and where four people are reported dead, seemed to have taken some of the wind out of Andrew's sails.

'It was not as bad as it could have been,' the Florida governor, Lawton Chiles, said early yesterday - but this proved to be an over-optimistic first assessment. As teams of television crews, police and firemen ventured out into the flagging storm, the hurricane's legacy made itself evident.

Jumbo jets were blown off runways at Miami and Florida International airports and were only saved from becoming giant heaps of scrap by small border fences. Tamiami airport, west of Miami, a busy port for light aircraft, was levelled. Hangars and planes were blown away.

At the marina in Coconut Grove, Miami, yachts were thrown on to the docks by the winds and tidal surges. Some were left resting precariously on top of mooring pylons, making them look like toys strewn about by a giant mischievous toddler.

Hardest hit was the Kendall area, a middle-class suburb west of Miami, defined by sprawling housing developments and shopping malls. It was there that most of those made homeless resided.

It was to such areas in western Dade County that people had been urged to flee because they were away from coastal areas thought to be more dangerous.

In the end the coast was largely untouched and the storm ripped roofs and walls off apartment blocks and homes.

In the Bahamas yesterday, up to 200 Royal Navy personnel were standing by to launch a major relief operation.

By midday yesterday Andrew was reforming in the Gulf of Mexico, moving west by northwest at 18mph and packing winds of 140mph. Parts of Alabama and Texas were put on alert.

Photograph, page 8

Hurricane may cost dollars 15bn, page 18