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Hurricane Irma: Writer Edwidge Danticat on Evacuating from Miami to Orlando

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At least four people have died and nearly 6 million people are without power in Florida after Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday on the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm also flooded the streets of downtown Miami, turning the city’s main strip, Brickell Avenue, into a three-foot high raging river. Its arrival sparked one of the largest mass evacuations in U.S. history, with nearly 7 million people ordered to leave their homes. We go now to Florida to speak with one of the evacuees–the award winning Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. She lives in Miami but had to evacuate to Orlando.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. At least four people have died and nearly 6 million people are without power in Florida, after Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm also flooded the streets of downtown Miami, turning Miami’s main strip, Brickell Avenue, into a three-foot-high raging river. The storm sparked one of the largest mass evacuations in U.S. history, with nearly 7 million people ordered to leave their homes.

We go now to speak with one of them. We go to Florida to speak with the award-winning Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. She lives in Miami but had to evacuate to Orlando.

Edwidge, how are you? Where are you now? And your thoughts on what’s taking place in your state?

EDWIDGE DANTICAT: Good morning, Amy. Thank you for checking in. I am fine. I’m doing much better than a lot of other Floridians. We had to evacuate on Thursday, because the area that I live is not too far from downtown Miami, and it’s close to a bay. And so we’re part of an extended evacuation area. So we decided, actually, two hours’ notice, on Thursday, to drive up to Orlando, where we have friends. And the road was really—I’ve never seen anything like that. We were driving about 10 miles an hour most of the way because of—you know, we were among some of the 6 million or so people who were told to evacuate. So, it was a very long drive, with a lot of folks also leaving. And we got to Orlando, hoping for a weaker version of the storm. We didn’t—gas was very—there is a lot of shortage of gas, so people—we couldn’t clear the state totally. So we stayed in Orlando with some friends, where the storm did come last night in a weaker version. There was a lot of wind. And I’m not sure what the damage is out there now, because we haven’t been able to go out. We don’t have any power where I am, as most of something like 3 million Floridians don’t have power. But we’re OK. And we are happy to survive, and are ready to return and see what happened, what we can do to help.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about an issue that also plagued people as Hurricane Harvey was hitting Texas, where, in Houston, something like 85,000 young people have DACA status, are allowed to stay, live and work in this country, and in the midst of the horror of that hurricane, President Trump pulls DACA. I wanted to ask you about temporary protected status for more than 50,000 Haitians, their status set to expire in July. But after pressure from immigrant rights activists, the Trump administration extended the temporary protected status for six months, meaning they could again face the threat of deportation in January. Are you hearing concern about this, as people are fleeing, as millions were forced to evacuate? Edwidge?

We may have just lost Edwidge Danticat, who was speaking to us from Orlando. She actually lives in Miami, but she is one of the 7 million evacuees in Florida.

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