Hurricane Irma, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday, has claimed at least 43 lives in the Caribbean and 11 in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Millions of Florida residents were without power and extensive damage was reported in the Florida Keys.
Millions of Florida residents were without power and extensive damage was reported in the Florida Keys. (AFP)

Aid rushed into hurricane-scarred Florida early on Tuesday, residents began to dig out, and officials slowly pieced together the scope of Irma's vicious path of destruction across the peninsula.

Even as glimmers of hope emerged from parts of the state forecasters once worried would be razed by the storm, the fate of the Florida Keys, where Irma rumbled through with Category 4 muscle, remained largely a question mark. 

Communication and access were cut and authorities dangled only vague assessments of ruinous impact.

"It's devastating," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said after emerging from a Monday fly-over of the Keys.

Irma killed 43 people in the Caribbean and at least 11 in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, officials say.

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansen reports. 

A Navy aircraft carrier was due to anchor off Key West to help in search-and-rescue efforts. 

Drinking water supplies in the Keys were cut off, fuel was running low and all three hospitals in the island chain were shuttered. 

The governor described overturned mobile homes, washed-ashore boats and rampant flood damage.

A stunning 13 million people, two-thirds of the third-largest state's residents, plodded on in the tropical heat without electricity, and nearly every corner of Florida felt Irma's power. 

In a parting blow to the state before pushing on to Georgia and beyond, the storm caused record flooding in and around Jacksonville, causing untold damage and prompting dozens of rescues. 

It also spread misery into Georgia and South Carolina as it moved inland with winds at 50 mph, causing flooding and power outages.

More than 180,000 people huddled in shelters in the Sunshine State and officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone.

"How are we going to survive from here?" asked Gwen Bush, who waded through thigh-deep floodwaters outside her central Florida home to reach National Guard rescuers and get a ride to a shelter. "What's going to happen now? I just don't know."

The governor said it was way too early to put a dollar estimate on the damage.

During its march up Florida's west coast, Irma swamped homes, uprooted trees, flooded streets, snapped miles of power lines and toppled construction cranes.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies