Georgia orders evacuation of Savannah, coastline as Irma nears


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The governor of the southern US state of Georgia on Thursday (Sept 7) ordered the mandatory evacuation of the city of Savannah and other coastal areas ahead of Hurricane Irma.

"I encourage all Georgians in our coastal areas that could be impacted by this storm to evacuate the area as soon as possible," Governor Nathan Deal said in a statement.

Citing potential storm surge, Deal said a mandatory evacuation would take effect beginning on Saturday for Chatham County, which includes Savannah, and other coastal areas.

Chatham County has a population of nearly 300,000 people while Savannah is the largest city in the county with a population of around 150,000.

Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category Five storm, is expected to make landfall over the weekend in southern Florida, where evacuations have also been ordered, and move up the coast towards Georgia.

Irma, packing winds of 295kmh has left a trail of devastation on small islands in the Caribbean.

Governor Deal said that in addition to ordering a mandatory evacuation he had authorised up to 5,000 members of the Georgia National Guard to be on active duty.

"The state is mobilising all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Irma," Deal said.