Charley left people powerless and homeless

The death toll from Hurricane Charley's destructive rampage in Florida has risen to 20, and more than 439,000 remain without power in the state, government officials said on Wednesday.

Charley, the strongest storm to hit Florida in a dozen years, charged over southwest coast on Friday with winds of up to 145 mph, demolishing mobile home parks and damaging tens of thousands of buildings.

Thousands of people were left homeless by the storm, and officials said 2,684 were still in shelters by Wednesday. Many others had found refuge with relatives and friends, or in hotels, according to Reuters.

Tom Ridge, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that in an Oval Office meeting on Monday, Bush directed him to check on what initially appeared to be a slow effort to restore power. Ridge said the president was not critical but wanted to convey "a sense of urgency" for the need to improve communications.

During his visit to the area on Sunday, for instance, Bush learned that one family in dire need of ice and water was unaware that relief was just a few blocks away, Ridge said. With about 640,000 households still without power, Ridge promised federal and state workers would "literally take to the streets" to get information to hurricane victims, writes Washington Post.

The Belfast Telegraph told that a Bangor couple were today waiting on tenterhooks to hear if the luxury new Florida home they plan to retire to later this year has been flattened by Hurricane Charley.

Ken and Corrine Gorman are desperately trying to glean any news on the fate of the house which was built recently just 26 miles from Punta Gorda, where the worst of the devastation was wreaked.

The pair, who bought the property in the Arcadia Village Country Club development last year, fear that their dreams of leaving Northern Ireland behind for a new life in the Sunshine State have been dealt a major setback.

Mr Gorman said they had been saving for the luxury villa since their first trip to Florida in 1982.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team