Hurricane Ian has made landfall again, this time in South Carolina, as US President Joe Biden said earlier damage in Florida ranked among the worst in America’s history and may take years to rebuild.
The resurgent hurricane crossed as a category 1 storm near Georgetown, South Carolina around 2pm on Friday (local time).
Residents were warned of potentially life-threatening flooding, storm surges and winds, and a tornado alert was issued covering five million people over parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
The second hit comes after Ian came ashore Wednesday (local time) on Florida’s Gulf Coast as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the US.
Mr Biden claimed he had ordered the pre-deployment of the largest team of search and rescue experts in recent history.
There have been 21 confirmed or unconfirmed deaths in Florida, according to Kevin Guthrie, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management.
It was the first time a state official offered an estimate of the human toll.
Some 10,000 people were unaccounted for, Mr Guthrie said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power, making it impossible to check in with loved ones or local officials.
He said he expected the number to “organically” shrink in the coming days.
Two days after Ian first came ashore, the extent of the damage there was becoming more apparent.
Mr Biden said the aftermath could be unlike anything before.
“We’re just beginning to see the scale of that destruction,” the President said.
“It’s going to take months, years to rebuild. And our hearts go out to all those folks whose lives have been absolutely devastated by the storm. America’s heart is literally breaking.”
Ian, which had weakened to a tropical storm during its march across Florida, was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday as it churned toward South Carolina with maximum sustained wind speeds of 140 km/h, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Hundreds of miles of coastline, stretching from Georgia to North Carolina, were under a hurricane warning.
Officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina urged residents to prepare for dangerous conditions.
By mid-morning on Friday (local time) in Charleston and Charleston County, South Carolina, everyone was ordered off the roads and the Charleston International Airport was closed because of high winds.
With all of South Carolina’s coast under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday following officials’ warnings to seek higher ground.
Charleston is particularly at risk. A city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that about 90 per cent of all residential properties were vulnerable to storm surge flooding.
‘Sharks’ and destruction
Fort Myers, a city close to where the eye of the storm first came ashore in Florida, absorbed a major blow, with numerous houses destroyed by 240 km/h winds and a powerful storm surge.
The storm surges and flooding also sparked unusual encounters and sightings, with one viral video showing a fish with the appearance of a shark swimming in a suburban backyard.
The large, dark fish had distinct dorsal fins and was thrashing on a flooded property in Fort Myers back yard.
It was filmed by local real estate developer Dominic Cameratta from his patio on Wednesday morning when he saw something “flopping around” next door.
Various experts are divided over the creature’s identity which viwers likened to something from the cult movie Sharknado.
A video of what many suspected to be a shark swimming in a flood in Fort Myers went viral as #HurricaneIan began hammering Florida. The video is authentic, but whether it shows a shark or another type of fish has not yet been determined.
Credit: Dominic Cameratta via Storyful pic.twitter.com/n6AHmi03cQ
— Storyful (@Storyful) September 30, 2022
In the Fort Myers area, the hurricane ripped homes from their slabs and deposited them among shredded wreckage.
Businesses near the beach were completely razed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks floated at odd angles beside damaged boats. Fires smouldered on lots where houses once stood.
“I don’t know how anyone could have survived in there,” William Goodison said amid the wreckage of a mobile home park in Fort Myers Beach where he’d lived for 11 years.
Mr Goodison said he was alive only because he rode out the storm at his son’s house inland.
The road into Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers and other debris. Cars were left abandoned in the road, having stalled when the storm surge flooded their engines.
In Florida, rescue crews piloted boats and waded through riverine streets on Thursday to save thousands of Floridians trapped amid flooded homes and buildings shattered by Hurricane Ian.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues, mostly by air, were conducted on Thursday involving the US Coast Guard, the National Guard and urban search-and-rescue teams.
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