Hurricane Ian wreaks havoc in Cuba, Florida; gains momentum
Hurricane Ian, described as one of the most powerful to hit the US, hits Cuba first, followed by Florida, with more damage expected as it gains strength.
Hurricane Ian is recorded to be one of the most powerful storms ever in the US after it made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, tumbling down buildings and trees and cutting power sources to 1.8 million people. As it approached, water drained from Tampa Bay, leaving people trapped in their flooded homes with many reaching out on social media for rescue.
Just hours after landfall, it weakened to a Category 2 hurricane, but the NHC has said that it went back up to a Category 1 Thursday night, leading to hurricane warnings for the entire coast of South Carolina, as well as parts of Georgia and North Carolina.
As part of precautionary measures, ahead of the hurricane's arrival, obligatory evacuations were conducted across Florida and several dozen shelters were set up, while all commercial flights were halted and cruise ship companies delayed and canceled voyages.
Charlotte County's Sheriff Bull Prummell declared a curfew between 9 pm and 6 am "for life-saving purposes," going as far as stating that those who violate it will be subject to second-degree misdemeanor charges.
The wind that Ian brought was so destructive that it was labeled the fifth strongest hurricane to hit the US. Among the other storms was Hurricane Charley, which destroyed the same area on Florida's coast in August 2004, after which 10 people were killed and damage was assessed at $14 billion.
As a response to the emergency, the state's governor, Ron DeSantis, assigned 30,000 linemen, urban search and rescue teams, and 7,000 National Guard troops from Florida on standby to begin rescue and help attempts once the storm fades.
In a statement on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said, "We'll be there to help you clean up and rebuild, to help Florida get moving again, and we'll be there every step of the way. That's my absolute commitment to the people of the state of Florida." His statement comes following the setup of the government's aid packages, which included 300 ambulances with medical teams, 3.7 million meals, and 3.5 million liters of water.
DeSantis reached out to Biden in order to announce a Major Disaster Declaration for all 67 Florida counties, which in turn would offer relief for residents and funding for public infrastructure repairs. In addition, DeSantis asked Biden for a 100% federal cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures for 60 days from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Cuba's power is out and 2 deaths reported
The hurricane hit its hardest on Tuesday in Cuba's province of Pinar del Rio before making its way to Florida, as crews attempted to restore back the power on the island that was completely cut off. Two deaths were reported on the island.
Unfortunately Hurricane Ian has ravaged Pinar Del Río, Cuba leaving destruction in it's wake... pic.twitter.com/3cA51aTxdV— Comandante Shinji 🇨🇺 (@ShinjiTheCuban) September 27, 2022
Starting out as a Category 3 storm reaching Cuba, according to state media, a woman died after a wall collapsed on her and a man died after his roof fell on him, and flash flooding was witnessed across the western part of the island.
Pinar del Rio is known for growing Cuba’s rich and globally acquired tobacco.
Although Cuba's National Electric System shut off power in Havana to avoid electrocutions, fire hazards, and damage to properties, the whole island's blackout was not expected. Cuba has already been suffering an economic crisis, food, fuel, and medicine shortages, due to the draconian sanctions and embargo imposed by the US.