Hurricane Ian: before and after images show destruction in Fort Myers, Florida

Catastrophic storm projected to be costliest in state's history

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Nearly a week after Hurricane Ian made landfall in the US, officials and residents of the state of Florida are beginning to grapple with the challenge of rebuilding communities after catastrophic wind damage and flooding destroyed cities and left at least 100 people dead.

President Joe Biden, scheduled to visit the storm-ravaged state on Wednesday, grimly warned last week that early reports in the state indicated “substantial loss of life” would be discovered during search and rescue operations.

“As I've made clear: times like these, our nation comes together. Put aside our differences, our political differences and get to work,” he said on Tuesday in remarks from Puerto Rico, which was battered by an earlier hurricane, Fiona.

More than 400,000 households and businesses remained without electricity on Tuesday, down from a peak of 2.6 million last week, PowerOutage.us reported.

The coastal city of Fort Myers, a popular tourist destination, was levelled by the hurricane's destructive storm surges. Photos taken before and after Ian made landfall show how the storm affected the landscape, with buildings flattened, roads flooded and the famous pier destroyed.

Other photographs show entire neighbourhoods levelled.

“We took a real bad shot, a real hard hit. There's a lot of devastation down here and more to come,” Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy said in a video shared on Facebook the day after Ian landed.

More than 2.5 million people across the state were told to evacuate before Hurricane Ian crashed into Florida's west coast.

Officials in Lee County, which encompasses Fort Myers, have faced questions about whether they should have ordered evacuations sooner.

“I am confident in our county manager, in our leaders, our governor, all of us in law enforcement that we got that message out at the right time,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said during a news briefing announcing 54 confirmed deaths in Lee County.

Cecil Pendergrass, chair of the county board of commissioners, said some residents opted to ride out the storm at home.

The road to rebuild Florida will be long and it will come with an extraordinary price tag.

Catastrophe modeller Karen Clark & Company estimated privately insured losses from Hurricane Ian will be close to $63 billion.

If uninsured properties, infrastructure damage and other clean-up and recovery costs are included, the estimate comes in at well over $100bn.

“In nominal dollars, Hurricane Ian will be the largest hurricane loss in Florida history,” the company said in its report.

CoreLogic, a financial services company, estimated wind losses will cost insurers between $22bn-$32bn and insured storm surge losses to be an additional $6bn-$15bn.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has created the Resilient Florida programme to provide grants that will shore up the state's defences against storms and climate change. The state's latest budget stated that $500 million had been allocated to the programme.

Updated: October 05, 2022, 6:18 AM
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