US Navy evacuating 5,000 as it prepares for Hurricane Irma

KEY WEST, Florida (Sept. 05, 2017) Sailors and civilians prepare for possible evacuation orders ahead of Major Hurricane Irma by filling up their cars at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West's Boca Chica Field Navy Exchange Gas Station. NAS Key West is a state-of-the-art facility for air-to-air combat fighter aircraft of all military services and provides world-class pierside support to U.S. and foreign naval vessels. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cody R. Babin/Released)

The US Navy is evacuating thousands of personnel from a Florida air base in preparation for the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history.

More than 5,000 active duty contractors, families and civilians situated at Naval Air Station Key West are being evacuated as Irma, a Category 5 storm, is heading toward the US.

The commander of the US Navy Region Southeast ordered the “mandatory evacuation of non-essential personnel and dependents from NAS Key West to safe haven within 300 miles of Atlanta, Georgia,” said Navy spokesman Bill Dougherty.

The storm with winds up to 185 miles (300 kilometers) per hour, is regarded as potentially disastrous for Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of 3.5 million US citizens, the tiny US Virgin Islands and Florida with a population of 21 million, in addition to the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Department of Defense spokesman Maj. Ben Sakrisson said that measures are being taken to protect 41 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo.

“Joint Task Force Guantanamo is closely monitoring the progress of Irma and is taking appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the detainees. Plans and procedures are in place to ensure for the safety of the detainees throughout this event,” Sakrisson stated.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump declared states of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, a move which allows federal assistance funds to be deployed there.

Trump’s declaration “authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (and) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts,” a White House statement read.

This comes as another strong storm hit the US Gulf coast late in August, claiming the lives of at least 60 people and causing serious damage to homes and other structures.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25 to bring about the worst flooding in Houston ever, with the rain totaling nearly 52 inches in some spots in affected areas.

Trump, who has visited the disaster areas twice, is seeking a $7.9 billion down payment from the US Congress for relief efforts in the wake of the massive storm.

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