Hurricane Irma evacuees are returning to scenes of devastation in the Florida Keys with reports of a quarter of homes destroyed on the low-lying islands.

The latest images show homes torn apart after the storm pummelled the region with winds of up to 120mph (192km/h).

Hurricane Irma
Residents of Vilano Beach in Florida are returning to find their homes destroyed. REUTERS

Search and rescue teams are moving through the worst affected areas with emergency supplies of food and water.

US President Donald Trump will visit Florida on Thursday to view the damage caused as Irma tore through the state.

It will be Mr Trump’s third trip related to hurricanes in two weeks and he will be joined this week by his wife Melania, the first lady.

The Florida Keys was one of the US areas hit hardest by Irma

About 90,000 residents returning to the Florida Keys and Miami Beach have been warned that most fuel stations remain closed and mobile phone signals are patchy.

Some residents were allowed into the towns of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada on Tuesday morning.

“Returning residents should consider that there are limited services. Most areas are still without power and water,” authorities in Monroe Country said.

Irma is being linked to at least 18 deaths in the US since it struck as a category four storm on Sunday, including 12 in Florida.

Some of the trailer properties in the Florida Keys were completely torn apart. GETTY IMAGES

Nearly 6.9 million homes were left without power in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama.

Parts of the Florida Keys, the low-lying islands which bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma, have since reopened.

But entry is being restricted to residents and business owners as work continues to clear roads and check the state of bridges linking the islands.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said at least 25% of homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65% suffered significant damage.

“Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted,” he said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said: “So many areas that you would never have thought have flooded, have flooded.”

Another hurricane, Jose, has been weakening over the western Atlantic, with swells due to affect parts of Hispaniola (the island split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, later this week.

BBC NEWS