More than 500,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without power nearly a week after Hurricane Ian hit the southeastern US state and left a trail of destruction and devastation.
Ian hit Florida on September 28 as a dangerous Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, and left more than two million customers across the state without power. Utility company officials say it will likely be Friday or Saturday before power is restored to at least 95% of its customers.
More than 1,500 people have been rescued as search and rescue teams carry out a painstaking door-to-door search for victims among destroyed homes and buildings. Ian’s US death toll has risen to more than 100 people from Florida to the state of North Carolina, with the majority of deaths in Florida. More than 50 deaths have been reported in Lee County, Florida, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Ian when it made landfall. Reuters says another 21 deaths have been reported by state officials from nine other counties.
Four deaths have been reported in North Carolina.
Lee County includes the hard-hit areas of Fort Myers and Sanibel and Pine Islands. The two barrier islands are cut off from the mainland after Ian destroys the only bridges that connect them, prompting rescue teams to drop supplies by helicopter on Pine Island. Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters Monday that temporary bridges will be built to reconnect Sanibel and Pine Islands to the mainland.
DeSantis on Monday defended officials who are coming under increasing scrutiny over the timing of their evacuation orders.
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will visit Florida on Wednesday. The Bidens traveled to Puerto Rico on Monday to get a first-hand look at the devastation of Hurricane Fiona, which hit the island days before Hurricane Ian emerged.