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Hurricane Floyd Update

Civil defence authorities announced sweeping evacuations in Florida Monday night (US time) and forecasters posted hurricane watches for the entire Florida coast as Hurricance Floyd develops greater catastrophic power than Hurricane Andrew. John Howard reports.

Governor Jeb Bush declared a statewide state of emergency. Tolls are lifted on state roads to speed exodus from the coast and the National Guard is on full alert for the aftermath. Ships are putting to sea to escape the worst and aircaft are being sent inalnd.

"It's scary, it's very scary," Bush said during a visit to the state's bunker-like satellite linked command centre in Tallahasee.

Miama-Dade County has announced a further manadatory evacuation of 272,000 from Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and other coastal areas.

Schools, libraries, courts, and solid waste services are suspended as at 10pm. (US time)

Meanwhile, Floyd has expanded to monstrous proportions - a boderline top-of-the-scale Category 5 storm.

Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricance Centre, says this is a really intense beast enough to scare you out of your wits. If you are not prepared it will cost you your life, he said.

The storm could be dangerous even if it does not come directly ashore. Floyd's winds extended for 125 miles while Andrew's winds extended only 25 miles.

Georgia was also under a hurricane watch from Brunswick to Savannah, a seventy-mile span and forecasters say that is likely to be extended to South Carolina.

"This is probably the most serious threat we've had to the Georgia coast this century," said Gary McConnell director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

"It's controlling it's own destiny, that's a bad sign," he said.

Universal Studios and other tourist attractions in Florida have never ben through a major hurricane and are lowering water levels in manmade lagoons.

At Kennedy Space centre, which is just 9 feet above sea level, almost all the 12,500 workers were leaving. This would be the first complete evacuation of the space centre ever.

Three of NASA's space shuttles were in a hanger designed to withstand wind of only up to 105 miles per hour. Four multimillion- dollar rockets were exposed on launch pads and could not be moved.

"Hurricane Floyd is huge, he's powerful, he's fast and he's mean," said Richard Moore. This is a once in a century storm, he said.

June Mastandrea, whose home was destroyed by Andrew, said, " I'm ready, I'm too busy to think about it. If I do I'll cry."

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