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Too soon to know how bad Irma hit Keys, state emergency chief says

via @MaryEllenKlas

TALLAHASSEE --  Amid reports Sunday that there may be a "humanitarian crisis'' in the Florida Keys following the storm, Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon said he could not confirm or deny any reports of multiple deaths or extensive damage.

"We don't have a comprehensive insight into what the damage is,'' Koon told reporters at the Tallahassee Emergency Operations Center late Sunday.

He said he had spoken to Martin County Emergency Operations Director Marty Senterfitt and search and rescue efforts will not begin in until Monday. Until then, both physical and human damage cannot be ascertained, he said.

"We will work on those at first light,'' he said. "I don't have any numbers on fatalities at this point."

Koon said that based on traffic reports from the Florida Highway Patrol and other estimates from county officials, they estimate that about 10,000 people remained in the Keys to ride out the storm but, because communications are cut off, he could not determine what kind of needs they have.

He said it is likely that water, electricity are out and there is "fairly significant impact to homes,'' "no retail infrastructure," and virtually no communication.

"It is obvious we need to get in there, assess the damage and figure out what we need to do for helping those folks,'' he said.

He said that search and rescue efforts will begin on Monday when they expect to be able to access Key West's Boca Chica airport. Another team is getting the Marathon airport ready to open, he said.

"We hope weather will allow us to to go in there, do assessments and provide whatever assistance is necessary."

Koon could not confirm reports that a military C-130 cargo plane was headed to the Keys with supplies. He said he was not aware of any search and rescue assets on the ground now.

He said they will bring in commodities to support the shelters, which are expected to become "longer term shelters" because of the amount of damage expected.

He said he was not aware of any major bridge damage along the 100-mile span to Key West but "it is too soon to know" until Department of Transportation completes bridge and road inspections. He said the agency will use a drone on Monday to do its initial assessment.

--MARY ELLEN KLAS

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