HURRICANE IRMA'S outer bands smashed into South Florida last night as the remaining residents were ordered to leave their homes to go to shelters and avoid the roads.

More than six million people – a quarter of Florida's population – had already been ordered to evacuate before Governor Rick Scott warned it was too late to drive away from danger areas.

The National Hurricane Centre expects the eye of the powerful storm to strike the Keys, south-western Florida and Tampa Bay region around lunchtime today.

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While the core of the massive hurricane is expected to miss the populated Florida south-east coast, forecasters said last night the Miami region will still experience life-threatening hurricane conditions.

Irma’s winds weakened to 130 mph when it hit Cuba yesterday causing severe damage, but the storm was forecast to regain strength over the ultra-warm Florida Straits before it hit western Florida.

British people in the path of Hurricane Irma are being warned the "situation could deteriorate significantly" as it bears down on the US mainland.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said its ability to provide assistance may be "extremely limited" and advised those affected to make their own contingency plans.

The historic storm regained its Category Five status – the highest – overnight before dropping back to Category Four on Saturday after leaving at least 25 people dead across the Caribbean.

The hurricane battered the north coast of Cuba yesterday, with extensive flooding reported in the Cuban fishing village of Caibarien.

Hurricane centre spokesman Dennis Feltgen said a direct hit into the Tampa region of Florida, which has not felt a major hurricane since 1921, has long been a concern. He said storm surge there was likely to be a major problem.

British police officers have been deployed as part of the UK's efforts to step up support to the Caribbean islands left devastated by the hurricane.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said they will provide support to the British Virgin Islands force as part of the relief effort, however no officers from Police Scotland will be deployed according to a spokeswoman for the NPCC.

Following criticism of its response to the disaster, the UK Government announced a £32 million aid package spearheaded by the military. Almost 300 military personnel have left the UK as part of Operation Ruman, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.