Irma aftermath: Keys devastated, Miami opens for business

The Southeast United States is digging out following Hurricane Irma, which hit Florida as a Category 4 storm on 10 September, destroying many homes and businesses, and causing widespread flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is estimating that 25 percent of the homes in the Florida Keys, off the state’s southern tip, were completely destroyed, while another 65 percent suffered significant damage. 

"A lot of people lost everything. There’s power lines down all over the place. Trees completely uprooted. People's businesses flooded,” Darwin Tobacco, a resident of Big Pine Key, told CNN.

On the seafood front, buyers expect widespread damage and a major disruption in supply of all seafood from the region – particularly spiny lobster.

“The traps were probably all destroyed, and they [commercial fishermen] will be looking for materials,” said Tim Lycke, owner of IncredibleFish, a major Miami, Florida-based importer and exporter.

Seafood restaurant Snappers Key Largo was completely destroyed, but owners said on its web site that “our plan is to rebuild as quickly as possible, better than ever.”

Transportation in and out of the chain of islands is also hampered, due to officials testing the bridges between the islands and two sections of washed-out road that need to be repaired.

Because Hurricane Irma shifted more towards Florida’s west coast, Miami was spared the worst of the storm. While there is significant damage and power outages, seafood transportation was set to resume on 12 September for some importers, and on 13 September for others.

Miami International Airport re-opened on 12 September, after closing on 8 September ahead of the storm.

“We are very optimistic we made out okay in Miami,” said Cesar Lago, president of Camanchaca’s North American offices. “Our plants have been producing normally since Monday, and we expect the first shipments from Chile to arrive tomorrow.”

In addition, the Chilean salmon supplier’s main trucking company out of Miami will start operating its normal schedule on 13 September.

“We are getting back to business. We have several people of our team out of state working remote, and several employees here are also working remotely,” Lago said. “Our warehouse is up and running.”

At IncredibleFish, its warehouse had power, no damage, and was fully functional on 12 September. 

“The only problem is, we don’t have any fish,” Lycke said. 

However, IncredibleFish received Chilean salmon on 12 September, and expects to receive shipments from Ecuador and Chile on 13 and 14 September.

Late last week, Lycke predicted higher Chilean salmon prices, at least in the short term, thanks to delayed shipments because of the hurricane. 

“You’re going to see a very tight supply, and an upward climb in the price,” he said. “The price has already started climbing.”


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