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Uber gives free rides to shelters in Hurricane Irma's path

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Uber Technologies and Lyft offered free rides to shelters near Tampa as Hurricane Irma barrelled toward the Florida mainland.

[NEW YORK] Uber Technologies and Lyft offered free rides to shelters near Tampa as Hurricane Irma barrelled toward the Florida mainland.

The city's Office of Emergency Management publicised the free Uber rides on its Twitter feed and mobile news-alert service. Lyft said its free rides also included trips to hospitals.

The offers served a vital need as Tampa Bay area residents got late notice that the monster storm had changed track on Saturday and was heading their way.

It also provided a chance for Uber to burnish an image sullied by a macho culture that prompted the resignation of chief executive officer Travis Kalanick in June.

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Uber has also been criticised for using its so-called surge pricing in times of crisis.

Irma collided with the Florida Keys early Sunday as a Category 4 storm, with top winds of 209 kilometres an hour, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

It is expected to move north along Florida's west coast.

Uber service was suspended in the Tampa Bay area after noon local time.

A Lyft spokeswoman said that company has also suspended rides.

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