Hurricane Ian barreled north Friday, preparing to make a second landfall in South Carolina, a day after carving a path of destruction across central Florida.
At least 12 people were killed in the United States as rescue teams raced to reach dozens of other trapped residents along the state’s Gulf Coast.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management, put the potential death toll at 21.
He said that some 10,000 people were unaccounted for, although many of them were likely in shelters or without power and unable to contact relatives.
Ian upgraded ahead of second landfall
Ian, which had weakened to a tropical storm during its march across Florida, was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane as it churned toward the Carolinas, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 85 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour), the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
South Carolina’s entire coastline has been placed under a hurricane warning, with authorities advising people to seek higher ground.
The warning stretched from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, with flooding rains likely across the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia, the NHC said.
Footage from Fort Myers and nearby Naples showed major flooding, with floodwaters surging into homes and sweeping away vehicles.
Biden pledges federal help for Florida
Ian left a broad swath of destruction after it came ashore on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
Described as one of the strongest to ever hit the US, the storm flooded areas on both of the state’s coasts, tore homes from their slabs, demolished beachfront businesses and left more than 2 million people without power.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Friday that rescue crews had gone door-to-door to over 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.
“There’s really been a Herculean effort,” he said during a news conference in Tallahassee.
US President Joe Biden issued a federal disaster declaration, allowing federal aid to be provided to Florida.
“We’ll be there to help you clean up and rebuild, to help Florida get moving again,” Biden said on Wednesday.
“And we’ll be there every step of the way. That’s my absolute commitment to the people of Florida.”
Migrant boat sinks
Shortly before Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, a boat carrying migrants sank, leaving 23 people missing and four survivors.
Walter Slosar, Miami’s chief patrol agent, said US authorities responded to a “migrant landing in Stock Island, Florida.”
“Four Cuban migrants swam to shore after their vessel sank due to inclement weather,” Slosar wrote on Twitter.
Hurricane intensified after hitting Cuba
Ahead of its arrival, National Weather Service director Ken Graham said Ian would be “a storm we talk about for many years to come… It’s a historic event.”
DeSantis said thousands of personnel were assigned to respond to the storm with 250 aircraft, 300 boats and 1,600 high-water vehicles.
Ian had battered Cuba as a Category 3 storm just less than 24 hours before nearing Florida.
Scientists have long sounded the alarm over how climate change can hike the intensity of extreme weather events.
mm, jsi (AFP, AP, Reuters)
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