Residents survey damage on Big Pine Key following Hurricane Irma
An estimated 10,000 residents are homeless after Hurricane Irma blew through the Florida Keys as a massive and powerful Category 4 storm and devastated entire blocks of homes last week.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the estimate during a news conference Monday morning in Marathon.
With that count, a little more than 10 percent of Monroe County residents have nowhere to live.
“The estimate is around 10,000. The data, as people have signed up through FEMA, is lower than that, so they’re still trying to figure that out,” Scott said. “As we all know, the Lower Keys were decimated.”
Shelters have been set up, but Scott said it is the county’s job to decide on housing needs.
“Then, with our state Emergency Management team, FEMA and volunteers, we’ll say how do we provide those resources,” Scott said. “We are looking at all the options.”
Also in Marathon on Monday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said federal waivers have allowed individuals from other states to work in Florida, such as healthcare professionals who aren’t licensed to work in the state.
“We waive all sorts of bureaucratic aspects of healthcare that exist. This is about people, not process,” Price said. “The key to all of this is saving lives.”
The county allowed all residents to return home over the weekend. In the Upper Keys, where damage was bad, but not as severe as in the Middle and Lower Keys, residents were allowed to return Sept. 12, two days after Irma ripped through the island chain.
Residents in Marathon, the Middle Keys city that suffered major damage from Irma, were given the go-ahead to come back Saturday. People living in the rest of the Keys down to Key West began going home at daybreak Sunday.
Scott said he wants to do everything possible to get the Keys back to normal, but before that can happen, power, water and sewer services have to be restored. The goal is to restore the islands to some sort of normalcy by Oct. 1.
There is also a lot of debris to clean up.
“All of us have to work on getting the county to look presentable for citizens all around the world that want to come to the Keys. As we all know, Florida is known for the Keys,” he said.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219