WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Residents in the U.S.
Florida Keys area started a phased evacuation on Sunday morning as the powerful
Hurricane Ike looms.
According to an ABC news report, visitors have been
asked to leave the Florida Keys, an archipelago of about 1,700 islands, which
stretches from the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula.
The Florida-based National Hurricane Center said that
as of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the Ike's eye was just east of Great Inagua Island
in the Bahamas at Category 4 and moving at nearly 217 kilometers per hour.
It was forecast to hit the Florida Keys on Monday
night on its potential track to the central Gulf, the center said.
At a meeting with local government and emergency
officials, Florida Governor Charlie Crist noted the need to be "prepared, smart,
vigilant and alert" with the storms that "have a mind of their own."
The state government has issued the order on phased
evacuation starting at the end in Key West from early morning and throughout the
Ike has reportedly damaged more than 80 percent of
the homes on Grand Turk and South Caicos islands and left hundreds without their
roofs and boats.