Nfter the severe devastation caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida, the state is struggling with the massive storm damage. Nearly two million homes were still without power, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Friday. Several districts were largely cut off from the power grid, one almost completely. Thousands of people sought shelter in emergency shelters. Florida authorities are currently estimating that at least 21 people have died from the storm. However, there is still no clarity about these numbers, emphasized Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Emergency Management Authority.
The storm meanwhile reached the state of South Carolina near the city of Georgetown as the next coastal region with wind speeds of 140 kilometers per hour. Meteorologists warned of floods and storm surges that could be a good two meters high.
In many places in Florida, streets were under water, houses were razed, bridges were destroyed or boats washed ashore, as in Fort Myers. Helicopter footage showed burning houses between flooded streets or properties from which the buildings were completely washed away. On Key Largo, one of the islands in the Florida Keys chain of islands in the very south of the state, the water in the streets is so deep that crocodiles swim in them, according to the Miami Herald newspaper. On Sanibel Island, the bridge connecting it to the mainland was destroyed. DeSantis said the images of the devastation were at times depressing.
Alligators in flooded areas
Authorities warned residents of flooded areas about dangers in the water such as pollutants from the sewage system, chemicals – or even alligators. Broken electricity and gas lines could also cost lives.
US President Joe Biden expressed dire fears on Thursday, saying, “This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history.” State officials were cautious about the estimated death toll. Authorities chief Guthrie said on Friday that 21 deaths had been reported, but most had not been finally confirmed. Other cases still need to be investigated. In the case of natural disasters of this type, it is generally not easy to determine whether a death is directly related to the storm or has other reasons.
As a Category 4 hurricane, “Ian” made landfall in Florida on Wednesday with wind speeds of up to 240 kilometers per hour. It left destruction and flooding in its wake across the southern state.
Ian had weakened to a tropical storm en route through Florida, but then grew back to a force one hurricane over the ocean. “Ian” should hit the coast in South Carolina on Friday. A state of emergency was declared there in advance to enable support from federal authorities for relief and rescue work. The National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening storm surges along the South Carolina coast, as well as rain and flooding in neighboring North Carolina and southern Virginia.
On Tuesday, “Ian” was a category three out of five hurricane that made landfall in Cuba and caused severe damage there. At least three people died, according to the government. Large parts of the Caribbean state were still without electricity on Friday.