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Florida venues open doors as Irma batters state

Sports and entertainment venues were used as shelter for Floridians seeking refuge from Hurricane Irma, which tore through the Caribbean and south-eastern United States over the weekend.

Irma, a category-five hurricane and the most intense observed in the Atlantic in more than a decade, forced the cancellation of shows, festivals and sports matches in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and is believed to have left nearly 50 people dead, including 11 Americans.

In Florida, more than 6.5 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders, and many rode out the worst of the storm in shelters in Alico Arena (4,500-cap.) in Fort Myers and Germain Arena (concert cap. 8,500+) in Estero, with shelter staff assisted by National Guardsmen, sheriff’s deputies and motorway police. Both venues were reportedly at capacity by Saturday afternoon.

One person taking shelter in Germain Arena, Krystal Malpass, told the Fort Myers News-Press she didn’t know what to expect from the shelter but that staff had been “extremely nice”.

In Florida more than 6.5m people were under evacuation orders, and many rode out the storm in arenas

An estimated 800 people also sough refuge at the Sun Dome (10,411-cap.) arena at the University of South Florida in Tampa, while aseball team Detroit Tigers opened their clubhouses in Lakeland, Florida, to evacuees and emergency staff.

While the state’s arenas, including the 20,000-cap. American Airlines Arena in Miami, weathered the worst of the storm relatively unscathed, there have been reports of damage at several open-air venues.

Marlins Park, a 37,442-cap. stadium in Miami, reportedly suffered around 6% damage to its retractable roof, while the Hard Rock Stadium (65,326-cap.) in Miami Gardens is under inspection by structural engineers for potential damage.

At the time of writing, Irma had been downgraded to a tropical storm – although three million people are thought to have been left homeless in the US alone, with many more affected in the Caribbean and other Atlantic islands.


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