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Florida attractions bunker down as Hurricane Irma passes through the state

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Major visitor attractions across Florida have been forced to close their doors as Hurricane Irma makes its way up the US state.

Irma – now downgraded from a category three to one after causing chaos in the Caribbean – still has maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120kmph).

So far more than 3.4 million homes in the state are without power, while parts of Miami are underwater. At least four deaths have been linked directly to the storm since it hit Florida, with at least 28 deaths also in the Caribbean. US President Donald Trump has already approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for the state.

While physical damages at Florida’s attractions are uncertain, the hurricane is reported to cost tens of millions of dollars in lost revenues, both in walk up attendance and cancelled bookings from visiting tourists overseas and out of state.

Disney’s four theme parks in Orlando – Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Magic Kingdom – all closed their doors on Saturday evening (9 September), with the parks expected to remain closed until tomorrow (12 September). The operator has also closed its Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach waterparks.

Legoland Florida is also shut, with guests staying at its beach retreat moved instead to the Legoland Hotel for the duration of the storm. The operator has however encouraged guests to seek alternative accommodation as it could not “guarantee resort amenities or access to electricity during severe weather.”

Other Merlin attractions on Orlando’s I-Drive are closed, with the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife aquarium all closed through the weekend. The entire I-Drive 360 complex closed on Saturday, with a reopening date not currently set.

For Universal, events to be held at its parks over the weekend were cancelled. It closed its attractions on Saturday evening, with a statement from the operator saying it anticipated normal operating hours from Tuesday. Universal’s hotels – all operating at full capacity – have remained open.

For SeaWorld Orlando, which also closed on Saturday, the operator said that it had a “comprehensive weather preparedness plan”, keeping security and zoological staff on-site in secure locations during the storm to take care of the park’s animals.

“We’re also providing support and temporary housing for animals from other zoological facilities in coastal areas expected to have greater impact,” said a statement from the operator.

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Major visitor attractions across Florida have been forced to close their doors as Hurricane Irma makes its way up the US state.
Orlando's I-Drive 360 will remain closed until further notice  / TNS/SIPA USA/PA Images

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