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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK

World: Americas

Hurricane Irene heads north

A fisherman struggles to tie down his boat near Miami

Hurricane Irene is moving north along the east coast of the United States on a path that could bring it to North Carolina - a state still coping with the after-effects of Hurricane Floyd.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant: Residents were warned to watch out for alligators
Irene has already killed at least 13 people, five of them electrocuted by fallen power lines in Florida.

A mother, her twin sons, and a teenage friend, stepped into puddles electrified by the cables in the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale, as they walked through the streets observing storm damage.

[ image: A cargo barge blown on to Hollywood Beach, Florida]
A cargo barge blown on to Hollywood Beach, Florida
Minutes later another teenager was electrocuted in similar circumstances 10 miles away.

"They died almost instantaneously on the spot," said local sheriff, Ken Jenne.

"We've got to learn that no matter how tempting it is to allow our children out in the streets in these flooded areas, these power lines are a danger."

Four people were reported dead in Cuba, of whom two were electrocuted and the other two drowned in fields of sugar cane.

Another four deaths were blamed on Hurricane Irene in the Bahamas.

Floods and power cuts

In Coral Springs, Florida, a man's body was found floating near a vehicle in a canal.

"We don't know if this person maybe drove into the canal, thinking it was the street or a parking lot," said police sergeant Rich Nicorvo.

Elsewhere in Florida fish from overflowing canals were reported swimming in the streets, after the hurricane dropped up to 45cm (18 inches) of rain.

More than a million people have suffered power cuts.

Hurricane Irene has caused worse floods than much stronger hurricanes of the recent past, such as Hurricane Andrew whose 240 kmh (150 mph) winds caused more than $25bn damage to Miami's southern suburbs.

Hurricane Irene's strongest winds, which also fell on Miami, hit speeds of 135 kmh (85 mph).

Metereologists warn that it could yet gain strength.

State of emergency

Florida Governor Jeb Bush had declared a state of emergency in much of the state before Hurricane Irene arrived. In Washington President Bill Clinton declared an emergency in 28 counties of southern and central Florida.

Officials fear that Irene could release several inches of rain on the Carolinas, including areas that are still suffering from floods generated by Hurricane Floyd earlier this month.

A hurricane warning extends as far north as Surf City, North Carolina.

The state's emergency management agency says it is ready to shift focus from recovery to preparations for another crisis.

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