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Florida diocesan official says normal life at standstill after Irma


  • Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., right, stands in St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Naples with its administrator, Father Russell Ruggiero, who rode out Hurricane Irma in the church. Several parishes and schools in the 10-county Diocese of Venice were affected by the storm. The bishop and members of his pastoral team visited the coastal areas of Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers, along with inland areas still affected by the storm, such as Clewiston. (CNS photo/Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic)
  • A mobile home with its front ripped off by Hurricane Irma's winds is seen near Naples, Fla., Sept. 11. (CNS photo/Bryan Woolston, Reuters)
  • An uprooted tree that slashed a trailer in half in the wake of Hurricane Irma is pictured Sept. 12 at a mobile home park in Kissimmee, Fla. (CNS photo/Gregg Newton, Reuters)
  • Residents look at a collapsed house Sept. 12 after Hurricane Irma passed the area in Vilano Beach, Florida. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)
  • Mobile homes and farmworker housing in Immokalee, Fla., are seen flooded Sept. 12 after Hurricane Irma swept up through Florida, leaving many in Southwest Florida without housing. The hurricane also severely impacted the region's infrastructure, including electricity, gasoline, internet and mobile telephone services. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

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IMMOKALEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Peter Routsis-Arroyo, the CEO of the Diocese of Venice's Catholic Charities, said Hurricane Irma has brought normal life to a standstill in the entire Southwest Florida region.

While a large percentage of the population of towns from Marco Island to Naples to Sarasota and Venice had evacuated the state altogether, Routsis-Arroyo is putting a special focus on the fragile, year-round migrant worker communities throughout the area.

Almost immediately after the hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 storm in the Florida Keys in the state's southernmost tip and exited the state's northern border with Georgia, leaving a statewide trail of damage and flooding, Routsis-Arroyo was in his car touring some of the interior agricultural towns of Immokalee and Arcadia, where Catholic Charities operates services for the extensive farm worker communities there.

Standing water in many communities of Southwest Florida will need to recede before Knights of Columbus emergency deliveries and disaster response programming can get underway, said Routsis-Arroyo, who is himself a Knight of Columbus. He was anticipating a first truckload of emergency aid to come down from Gainesville.

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