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Florida cleans up after fourth hit by hurricane
MIAMI (AFP) Sep 28, 2004
Florida embarked on one of the biggest clearup operations in US history after Hurricane Jeanne, the fourth hurricane to hit the state in six weeks, killed at least six people and left more than one million without power.

More than 5,000 emergency workers have been dispatched to Florida, joining thousands of police, health officials and other rescuers working to pick up the pieces following hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and now Jeanne, said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown.

President George W. Bush late Monday sent to Congress his third request for disaster relief for Florida and other hurricane-stricken states, bringing the size of the overall aid package to a whopping 12.2 billion dollars.

The National Hurricane Center late Monday downgraded Jeanne was to a tropical depression, but warned that the storm could trigger tornadoes in parts of North Carolina and Georgia.

Jeanne left six dead in Florida, police and local reports said, after killing two in Puerto Rico, 27 in the Dominican Republic and more than 1,300 in Haiti, where more than 1,000 are missing.

A man was found lying in water in a flooded house where he had been partying as the storm slammed ashore in the town of Micco in southeastern Florida.

In nearby Palm Bay, a man apparently drove his car into a canal Sunday morning, when the storm was still raging hours after making landfall during the night.

Two died when their vehicle plunged into a lake in Fort Lauderdale, and in Miami, a 70-year-old man was electrocuted by a downed power line, police said.

In Clay County, northern Florida, a 15-year-old boy was killed by a falling tree.

Florida, Jeanne smashed homes, tore off roofs, flooded streets and left one million people without electricity Sunday.

Hurricane Ivan, earlier this month, killed more than 130 people in the eastern United States and Caribbean nations. Before that, hurricanes Charley and Frances killed dozens and destroyed thousands of homes after slamming into Florida's coasts.

There is still two months to go in the hurricane season.

"This has been a historic six-week period," Florida Governor Jeb Bush said at a news conference, noting that the last time four hurricanes hit one state was in 1880, when Texas suffered the same fate.

"On long term basis this state will not only survive, it will rebound," he said.

Although the bulk of Bush's latest 12.2 billion request for disaster relief is earmarked for Florida, it will also benefit states like Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where the recent storms have caused considerable damage as well.

Florida's cumulative insured losses from all four recent hurricanes were expected to reach as much as 25 billion dollars, the company said.

More than 40,000 people are living in shelters due to the four hurricanes, said Page Jooy, a spokeswoman for Florida's emergency management agency.

Jeanne barrelled into southeastern Florida at the same spot where Hurricane Frances made landfall three weeks earlier. When it crashed ashore, Jeanne was a powerful category three hurricane packing winds of 193 kilometersmiles) per hour, with higher gusts.

Florida's tourism department requested 30 million dollars in aid to launch a campaign to lure back tourists to the storm-stricken state known for its beaches and tropical weather.

FEMA had spent 400 million dollars in reconstruction efforts before Jeanne hit the state, FEMA spokeswoman Barb Sturner said, adding that he did not have figures related to Jeanne.

Risk Management Solutions, a California-based risk management firm, estimated Sunday that insured losses from Hurricane Jeanne would range between four billion and eight billion dollars. More than one million people were without power Monday, while electricity was restored in the homes of another 500,000 people, Brown said.

"We will be here as long as it takes," Brown, FEMA's director, told CNN. "We will spend as much as it takes."

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