Nfter the passage of Hurricane “Ian”, the death toll in the US coastal state of Florida rose to at least 81 on Sunday, according to official figures hit land, recorded 42 deaths. 39 other victims were reported by authorities in four neighboring counties. After the water masses have receded, further fatalities are expected in the flooded areas. Search teams have not yet been able to penetrate all of the affected areas. About 10,000 people are still considered missing.
The hurricane largely lost strength over the weekend. Foothills caused rainfall on the US east coast as far as New York. Before it weakened, “Ian” hit the South Carolina coast Friday as a level one out of five hurricane, bringing with it storm surges. The TV pictures showed completely flooded streets and a partially destroyed pier. The state was spared from deaths, said Governor Henry McMaster. The power went out for more than 500,000 homes in South and North Carolina and Virginia, partly because falling trees severed the lines. In North Carolina, even with weakened winds, “Ian” still cost four lives, according to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Biden visits Florida and Puerto Rico
US President Joe Biden will fly to Florida and Puerto Rico in the next few days to get an idea of the hurricane damage. The White House announced that Biden would first travel to Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona, on Monday. Two weeks after the storm, some households are still without electricity. About 90 percent of the outages have been fixed, Criswell said. After Florida, Biden wants to follow on Wednesday. The White House had announced that it would support those affected without flood insurance with up to $40,000.
“Ian” made landfall in Florida on Wednesday as a level four of five hurricane. It left destruction and flooding in its wake across the southern state. The authorities emphasized that the reconstruction will take months and sometimes even years. On Sunday, the water levels in some towns in central Florida continued to rise, as the head of the civil protection agency FEMA, Deanne Criswell, said on US television.
The deadliest hurricane in Florida history?
Rescue and clean-up efforts continued in the affected areas of Florida. The Coast Guard rescued more than 300 people, some from roofs and trees, and a good 80 pets with helicopters, among other things. In all, more than 1,100 people were recovered alive, Governor Ron DeSantis said. President Biden had expressed dire fears Thursday, saying, “This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history.”
After Florida, “Ian” first went out to sea, regained some strength there and reached the coast of South Carolina on Friday with wind speeds of around 140 kilometers per hour. A few hours later, the winds weakened to around 95 kilometers per hour, according to the usual classification, the cyclone was no longer considered a hurricane.
Given the high death toll in Lee County, questions have been raised as to whether the evacuation order was issued too late. Sheriff Carmine defended the approach on Sunday: The hurricane had changed its route and only a day before it had become clear that it would hit Fort Myers rather than Tampa.
A debate also started as to whether expensive reconstruction in areas with severe storms made sense in the long term. Fema chief Criswell said strict building codes are needed for buildings to withstand the forces of nature. Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson told CBS that new buildings have mostly survived the hurricane.