NATIONAL

Thousands flee Florida hurricane

ORLANDO (FLORIDA), AUG.14. More than one million persons in the path of hurricane Charley were urged to flee as the west coast of Florida was braced for the arrival of potentially the most powerful storm in the area for nearly 50 years.

Tens of thousands were believed to have evacuated the Tampa area as the hurricane had reached speeds of nearly 220 kmph.

`God's force'

"This is one of God's most powerful forces," the State Governor, Jeb Bush, told a press conference yesterday. Having declared a state of emergency, he urged persons to leave the threatened areas in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. They are all holiday destinations popular with British tourists.

The persons most vulnerable to hurricanes, those living in mobile homes and trailer parks, were urged to anchor their vehicles and take up one of the more than 70,000 places in shelters that had been made available.

"It does have the potential for a devastating impact," said Mr. Bush.

"This is a scary, scary thing."

Before reaching Cuba yesterday, where it did little damage, Charley claimed its first life in Jamaica.

A farmer, Byron Barret, was killed in the St. Elizabeth parish while trying to rescue persons from flooding.

Since the middle of the week, Florida has been anticipating the hurricane's arrival; at first it was with the characteristic nonchalance born of years of regular visits from tropical storms, but later trepidation began to set in. — Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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