World news

at least 23 dead after passing through Florida

Storm Ian was expected to continue to weaken in the southeastern United States on Saturday, after causing flooding in South Carolina and devastating large swaths of Florida, where it claimed dozens of lives. The authorities of this State confirmed Friday evening a new toll of 23 victims, most of them by drowning and in their vast majority of the elderly.

Some American media evoke an even heavier human toll, the CNN television channel evoking 45 deaths.

After ravaging Florida, Ian headed for South Carolina, where it made landfall in the early afternoon near Georgetown as a Category 1 hurricane, accompanied by winds of up to 140 km/h, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Although it later weakened to a post-tropical storm (winds up to 110 km/h), its downpours caused sudden flooding in this state and in North Carolina, where some areas could receive up to at 20 cm of precipitation.

President Joe Biden has urged residents to heed calls for caution from local officials. In South Carolina, they had notably urged the population not to drive on the roads invaded by water.

“It’s a dangerous storm that will bring high winds and lots of water, but the most dangerous part will be human error. Be smart, make good decisions, check in on loved ones, and stay safe,” tweeted Governor Henry McMaster.

Ian is expected to “continue to weaken overnight and dissipate over western North Carolina or Virginia late tomorrow” Saturday, according to the Hurricane Center. Some 575,000 homes and businesses were already without power Friday evening in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the specialized site PowerOutage.

Property damage is “historic” in Florida

In Florida, in addition to the heavy human toll, the material damage is “historic”, the level reached by the rising waters having been unprecedented, according to Governor Ron DeSantis. Streets and homes were flooded and boats moored in marinas were tossed onto land by the storm. On Friday, in Kissimmee, not far from Orlando, the authorities crossed the flooded areas in boats to rescue residents trapped in their homes.

In this state, “we are just beginning to see the extent of the destruction”, “likely to rank among the worst” in the history of the United States, said Joe Biden during a speech. “It will take months, years to rebuild,” he lamented.

As of Friday evening, more than 1.4 million customers remained without power there two days after Ian passed through, according to PowerOutage.

“It was pretty terrible, but we held on”

In the coastal town of Fort Myers, called the “epicenter” by Ron DeSantis, a handful of restaurants and bars had reopened and dozens of people were seated outside, offering residents a semblance of normalcy between broken trees and destroyed facades.

“It was pretty terrible, but we held on. The roof of our house blew off, a big tree collapsed on our cars, our garden was flooded, but other than that, it’s fine,” said Dylan Gamber, 23, welcoming the solidarity that reigned between neighbors.

According to initial estimates, the passage of Hurricane Ian could cost insurers tens of billions of dollars and will weigh on American growth, in particular due to flight cancellations and damage to agricultural production. At the same time, the search continued to find 17 passengers of a migrant boat which capsized on Wednesday near the archipelago of the Keys.

Rainfall linked to Hurricane Ian has increased by at least 10% due to climate change

According to a first rapid study by American scientists made public on Friday, the rains linked to Hurricane Ian have increased by at least 10% due to climate change.

“Climate change didn’t cause the hurricane, but it did make it wetter,” said Michael Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, one of the scientists involved in the this study.

Before Florida, Ian had hit Cuba, causing three deaths and extensive damage and leaving many homes without power there too.

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