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More than 20,000 troops and five naval ships have descended on the region to help with relief efforts and carry out search-and-rescue missions.While nearly all of Florida was engulfed by the 400-mile-wide (645-kilometer) storm, the Keys - home to about 70,000 people - appeared to be the hardest hit with 90 per cent of homes destroyed or damaged.'I don't have a house. I have nothing,' said Mercedes Lopez, 50, whose family fled north from the Florida Keys town of Marathon last Friday and rode out the storm at an Orlando hotel, only to learn their home was destroyed, along with the gasoline station where he worked.'We came here, leaving everything at home, and we go back to nothing,' Lopez said.

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Other evacuees still aren't as sure of their return.

Joseph Ossman, 53 (right), a sergeant with the Hardee Correctional Institute, was heading to work Sunday morning when he collided head on with the vehicle driven by Sheriff's Deputy Julie Bridges, 42 (left), who was heading home from a night shift.

The water that poured in higher than their knees slowly drained out, and their apartment now smells like sewage and mildew.

The flood consumed their Ford Explorer, their only working car, which no longer will start.

About 110,000 people remained in shelters across the state.

The Florida Keys were largely evacuated by the time Irma barreled ashore on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 130 mph (215 km/hour).

The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat dropped to 9.5million on Tuesday - just under half of Florida's population.

Utility officials warned it could take ten days or more for power to be fully restored.

The hurricane destroyed about one-third of the buildings on the Dutch-ruled portion of the eastern Caribbean island of St.

Martin en route to Florida, the Dutch Red Cross said on Tuesday. This state is a state of strong resilient people.'Despite lack of electricity, most Floridians were just happy they were finally able to return home on Tuesday, after several nights holed up in shelters or with friends and family.

Carin Atkins said they can live without power at home for several days, recalling that they went 47 days without power after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

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