Hurricane Ian may have claimed ‘substantial’ number of lives

Hurricane Ian, considered “extremely dangerous”, made landfall Wednesday afternoon in Florida, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). It has already caused “catastrophic” flooding.

At sea, poor conditions capsized a boat carrying migrants, and the coastguard is still looking for 20 missing people, three having been rescued and four others having managed to swim to shore.

Carrying sustained winds of up to 240 km / h, Ian made landfall along the coast of Cayo Costa, in the south-west of the state, at 3:05 p.m. local (9:05 p.m. in Switzerland), according to the NHC. The hurricane on Wednesday caused “catastrophic marine submersion, winds, and flooding in the Florida peninsula”, according to the center’s previous bulletin.

More than a million homes were without electricity at 4:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. in Switzerland), mainly around the area in which Ian made landfall, according to the specialized site PowerOutage. In some counties on the coast, the majority of residents were without power, according to the site.

Ian has already devastated western Cuba in recent days, and is then expected to move inland during the day, and emerge over the western Atlantic by Thursday evening, according to the NHC.

“Anxiety”

The streets of Punta Gorda in the south of the state, where a few passers-by were still walking at noon, had suddenly emptied Wednesday afternoon, as the sky turned greyish and the showers intensified, saw AFP journalists.

Strong winds tore off the branches of many palm trees in the center, even making the electric poles wobble, the cyclone still being about forty kilometers from the city.

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“The closer he gets, the higher the anxiety obviously rises with the unknown,” observed Chelsea Thompson, 30, who was helping her parents secure their home Tuesday in an evacuation zone southwest of Tampa earlier. In Naples, in southwest Florida, images from the MSNBC channel showed completely flooded streets and cars floating in the current.

The phenomena of marine submersion could reach more than five meters on the coasts, according to the NHC, while between 30 and 45 cm of precipitation are expected in central and northeast Florida, and up to 60 cm by locations.

“Historical”

“This is a storm that will be talked about for many years to come,” NWS Director Ken Graham said at a press conference.

In the morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned that Ian could make landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale. “Clearly this is a very powerful hurricane that will have far-reaching consequences,” he said. Evacuation orders were given overnight for a dozen counties on the coast.

The director of Fema (the federal agency in charge of the management of natural disasters) affirmed that Ian would continue to be a “very dangerous” storm for “the days to come”. The authorities are preparing “for the historic and catastrophic effects that we are already beginning to see”, Deanne Criswell had underlined even before Ian made landfall.

power outages

According to the poweroutage.us site, more than 810,000 homes were already without electricity in Florida at 3:20 p.m. (9:20 p.m. in Switzerland). Ahead of Ian’s arrival, Tampa airport suspended operations late Tuesday afternoon, while Orlando’s did the same at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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Hurricane Ian, then in category 3, had previously hit Cuba on Tuesday. Two people were killed in the western province of Pinar del Rio, according to Cuban state media. The island and its 11.2 million inhabitants have been plunged entirely into darkness.

As the surface of the oceans warms, the frequency of the most intense hurricanes, with stronger winds and greater precipitation, increases, but not the total number of hurricanes.

According to Gary Lackmann, professor of atmospheric sciences at the State University of North Carolina, in the United States, several studies have demonstrated a “possible link” between climate change, and a phenomenon known as “intensification rapid” – when a relatively weak tropical storm strengthens into a Category 3 or greater hurricane within 24 hours, as was the case with Ian.

“A consensus remains that there will be fewer storms in the future, but that the biggest ones will be more intense,” the scientist told AFP.

This article has been published automatically. Sources: ats / afp

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