People in Florida refusing to flee the worst of Hurricane Irma’s storm surge “will not survive”, the state’s Governor has warned.
Rick Scott said the storm could cause seawater to rise up to twelve feet and will “cover your house”.
The stark warning came as the hurricane bore down on Florida, after wreaking havoc on infrastructure and killing at least 22 people in the Caribbean.
“This is a deadly storm and our state has never seen anything like it,” Mr Scott told a news conference. “Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds.
“The threat of deadly storm surge heading along the east, entire west coast of Florida has increased and six to 12 feet, think about that.”
He added: “Six to 12 feet — this will cover your house.
“It flows in fast, very fast, then it flows out. You will not survive all this storm surge.”
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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned on Saturday that the biggest threat to life came from storm surge, which occurs when strong winds push sea water onto land.
The most severe storm surge is predicted for a 200-mile stretch of southern Florida coast from Miami to north of Fort Myers, while the Florida Keys also are expected to see significant surge.
Irma made landfall in Cuba in the early hours of Saturday morning and was predicted to hit the southern tip of Florida, including the Keys, early on Sunday.
By Sunday afternoon, Irma is expected to have reached Naples and Fort Myers, while the storm is expected in Tampa between Sunday night and Monday morning.
Mr Scott said 25,000 power outages had been reported as of Saturday morning.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in 16 Florida counties, while voluntary evacuations have been ordered in 13 more.