At least 77 people have been confirmed dead after Hurricane Ian struck the US – with rescuers desperately searching for survivors among the ruins of flooded homes.
The remnants of one of the strongest and costliest hurricanes in American history is now headed north, with authorities in Florida and South Carolina left assessing the damage.
Ian has been likened to an “A-bomb” and about 10,000 people remain unaccounted for, although the authorities believe many are likely to be in shelters or without power.
It comes as President Joe Biden and the first lady confirmed their plans to travel to Florida and Puerto Rico next week to survey the damage and meet officials and residents after the hurricane battered both regions.
The Bidens will visit Puerto Rico on Monday and then Florida on Wednesday.
According to the American Red Cross, more than 1,300 disaster workers are supporting relief efforts across five states.
Of those killed, 73 were in Florida – mostly from drowning. But the storm has also had knock-on effects, and an elderly couple lost their lives after oxygen machines stopped working because of a power outage.
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- Hurricane Ian
A further four fatalities connected to the severe weather were reported in North Carolina – including two who died in a road crash during the storm.
Hurricane Ian’s winds and coastal surges have terrorised millions of people for most of the week – and although it has now been slightly downgraded to a cyclone, officials have warned the storm is still dangerous.
“Treacherous” conditions are still forecast throughout this weekend for large swathes of the east coast – including New York, New Jersey and Washington DC.
Back in Florida, a massive clean-up effort is now under way, and the latest figures suggest that more than 1.1 million residents are still without power and WiFi.
Governor Ron DeSantis said SpaceX chief executive Elon Muskhad agreed to provide the company’s satellite internet service Starlink to all those without connectivity trying to get help or reunite with loved ones.
Celebrities are also beginning to donate to a disaster relief fund.
American football star Tom Brady, who now plays for the Florida-based Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tweeted that he would be contributing to the Florida Disaster Fund, and urged other NFL players to do the same.
‘I want to sit in a corner and cry’
Anthony Rivera, 25, described climbing through the window of his ground-floor Fort Myers flat during the storm to carry his grandmother and girlfriend to the first floor.
As they hurried to escape the rising water, the storm surge had washed a boat right up next to his apartment.
“That’s the scariest thing in the world because I can’t stop no boat,” he said. “I’m not Superman.”
Other distraught residents waded through knee-high water, salvaging what possessions they could from their flooded homes and loading them onto rafts and canoes.
“I want to sit in the corner and cry. I don’t know what else to do,” Stevie Scuderi said after shuffling through her mostly destroyed Fort Myers home.
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Dramatic before-and-after images show scale of destruction
On Friday, Ian pummelled waterfront Georgetown, north of South Carolina’s historic city of Charleston, with wind speeds of 85mph.
The storm washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two connected to the popular tourist town of Myrtle Beach. On Saturday, more than 63,000 homes and businesses in the state were still without power.
President Bidenhas approved an emergency declaration for the state, which authorised the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in all its 100 counties as well as for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – a federally recognised Indian tribe based in western North Carolina.
Meanwhile, in Cuba, residents have taken to the streets of the capital Havana in protest at ongoing blackouts since its direct hit five days ago.
It has now been reported a new weather system is heading to Mexico’s northwestern Pacific coast.
The US National Hurricane Center said Orlene had grown to hurricane strength and was heading for an expected landfall early next week with winds of 75mph.