Florida recovers from Wilma's fury

Floridians lined up for water, gas, ice and generators Tuesday outside the few stores that were open after Hurricane Wilma roared across the peninsula.

The storm slammed across the state in about seven hours Monday, causing billions in insured damage and leaving 5.9 million people, or a little less than 3 million homes and businesses, without electricity. More than 5,000 residents remained in shelters Tuesday as the hurricane's remnants headed toward the North Atlantic.

Wilma was blamed for at least five deaths in Florida. Earlier, authorities reported six deaths in the state but on Tuesday they revised the to five deaths, reports the AP.

More than half of the shelters that opened for the storm had already closed on Tuesday, but about 50 still held more than 7,000 evacuees, state officials said.

There were scattered reports of looting, and dawn-to-dusk curfews remained in place throughout the region. Water pressure was low in many places, and residents were advised to boil what came out of their faucets, a hopeless proposition for the legions whose stoves and microwaves were dead.

President Bush, criticized for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, planned to come to Florida on Thursday to inspect hurricane damage, the White House announced.

Especially frustrating for many people were the waits for ice and water at distribution points that opened hours later than promised, if at all. Mike DeLorenzo, chief of Florida's Emergency Response Team, said that traffic and debris prevented trucks from arriving on time.

At the Orange Bowl in downtown Miami, cars wrapped around the stadium and families waited hours to get their share.

"My mom is at home, she's bedridden and she needs her fluids," said Milagros Arocena, whose car barely advanced during the hour she had waited. "This line is incredible, but I don't know where else to go."

Deena Reppen, a spokeswoman for Governor Bush, said long lines and supply shortages were to be expected in the first 24 hours after a hurricane. "The state is working around the clock with local and federal partners to push more food, water and ice into the area," she said, informs the New York Times.


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