WASHINGTON: Indian-Americans in Atlanta and neighbouring areas have opened up their homes for friends, families and community members from Florida, as catastrophic hurricane Irma+ made landfall on the state's southern islands. Hurricane Irma has claimed three lives in Florida till now.
Rain and wind sweep over empty roads as Hurricane Irma arrived into southwest Florida. (AFP photo)
With other Indian-American community organisations and religious groups, a collective count took the figure to a minimum of 2,000 families.
At least four temples in Atlanta region have opened up their doors for people fleeing from Florida+ , residents of a large parts of which have been asked by the State government to evacuate.
While the Indian Consulate in Atlanta was coordinating with various community groups and was in constant touch with community leaders and Indian passport holders, the Indian American community organisations in Atlanta launched an unprecedented relief effort for those in distress due to hurricane Irma.
The hurricane made a landfall in lower Florida Keys just before 9 am (local time) with wind gusting 130 miles per hour.
Several of the community organisations from Florida have moved their bases to Atlanta as a precautionary measure.
Popular Amma Kitchen announced to serve free food to those coming from Florida like several other Hindu temples.
Most of the Indian-Americans are being accommodated in individual homes. Indian-Americans who own hotels have opened up their unreserved rooms and in many cases their banquet halls have been converted into makeshift dormitories for those who left their homes in Florida to escape from the wrath of the hurricane.
As per 2010 census, Florida has an Indian-American population of 120,000. The number is now believed to have increased to 160,000 with the largest of their concentration in Miami-Fort Laura Deale area followed by Tampa and Orlando area.
Tampa is another major city that comes in the path way of Irma.
"This is going to impact our whole State. You know, you're going to get the wind and the rain on the east coast, but right now, it's impacting the Keys. It's going to impact my home town of Naples,
Florida, all of the west coast," Florida Governor Rick Scott told Fox News.
"What's scary is the unbelievable storm surge potentially in my own town, 15 feet of storm surge above ground level. And we are talking about that and something with the keys. People have asked what can we do, the first thing I tell them is pray, pray for everybody in Florida. They can donate to disaster, text disaster at 2022," Scott said.
US President Donald Trump, who is personally reviewing the preparations and rescue and relief operations, spoke today morning.
"My concern right now is people - hopefully everyone has evacuated. I looked at our traffic cameras around the state this morning. People are off the roads. I just hope everybody has evacuated and gotten to safety. So, I hope everybody will pray for us," he said.
Local news reports said at least one crane collapsed in Miami, as a result of the high wind speed of Irma, which was estimated to be at least 100mph.
It's a worst-case scenario for Florida on the west coast," said FEMA Administrator Brock Long.
Thousands of homes in Florida were reported to have power outage.