Emergency crews rushed Thursday to reach Floridians left stranded as Hurricane Ian turned its gaze toward the Carolinas after leaving a path of destruction from coast to coast across Florida, leaving behind flooding. fatalities, downed power lines and widespread damage.
Ian, one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit USA landmass in recent years, inundating communities and leaving millions without power before moving across the peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean, where it regained strength before making landfall in South Carolina on Friday.
The death toll in Florida remains uncertain in a context of vague information about the victims.
President Joe Biden, in statements at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, said Ian could end up being the deadliest in state history.
“The numbers are not yet clear, however, we are hearing the first reports that point to a substantial loss of life,” Biden said.
In hard-hit Charlotte County, a sheriff’s department spokesman confirmed multiple deaths but did not provide a hard toll. Sarasota County authorities were investigating two possible storm-related deaths, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
A 72-year-old man in Deltona, central Florida, died after going outside during the storm to drain his pool, authorities said.
More than 2.6 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power. Governor Ron DeSantis said Lee and Charlotte counties, home to more than 900,000 people, were “basically off the grid”.
South and North Carolina braced for impact as Ian – which had weakened to a tropical storm during its passage through Florida – returned to hurricane status at 5 pm ET (2100 GMT) with maximum sustained winds. 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour).
In South Carolina, Mercedes Benz, Boeing Co., and seaports that support manufacturers will suspend operations Friday.
The storm transformed Florida’s southwestern coast, dotted with sandy beaches, seaside towns and mobile home parks, into a disaster zone as Ian pushed seawater into shoreline homes.
looking for survivors
By noon Thursday, residents in hard-hit areas like Venice, located in Sarasota County about 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Tampa, were searching for family and friends as rescue teams worked to reach people. trapped in flooded houses.
Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman told residents in a Twitter post that there were more than 500 calls for help.
Searching for loved ones became more difficult as cell phone services were often cut off.
“There are a lot of fallen trees, a lot of flooding everywhere. We are trying to get in touch with my daughter.” said Terri Byrd, as she tried to get a line on her cell phone in a Walmart parking lot after spending the night at a Venice elementary school.
Biden contacted DeSantis on Thursday and said his administration was committed to close coordination and that Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Deanne Criswell will be in Florida on Friday. Biden said he will travel to the state when conditions allow.
With information from Reuters