One of the most powerful storms in US history has barrelled into Florida’s southwest coast with sustained winds of up to 150mph (241kph) and torrential rain.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa as an “extremely dangerous” category four storm but was close to being the maximum level of five (when there are winds of at least 157mph/252kph).
‘This storm is bigger than Florida’ – Hurricane Ian latest
The “catastrophic” storm surge could be as high as 12-18ft (3-5 metres) above ground level in some areas, with “destructive waves” and “life-threatening” flooding.
Cayo Costa is about 90 miles (145 km) south of Tampa and just west of Fort Myers.
The landfall zone has miles of sandy beaches, scores of resort hotels and numerous mobile home parks.
Ian was expected to dump 12-18in (30-45cm) of rain across a broad area including Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville in the state’s northeast corner.
People were told to treat the winds as if a tornado was approaching by moving to an “interior room now”.
US President Joe Biden said Ian is incredibly dangerous, and he urged residents to obey all warnings related to the storm.
More than two million people were under evacuation orders.
Even as Ian lashed the coast in the final hours before it swept ashore, authorities put residents on notice that it was too late for anyone who had yet to evacuate to safely do so.
As the storm heads inland, it is expected to weaken, but residents in central Florida could still experience hurricane-force winds.
Over a million impacted by power cuts
Among the places set to be worst affected in the southwest are from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbour.
Residents “should urgently follow any evacuation orders in effect”, said the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
More than one million homes and businesses were without electricity.
Meanwhile, 23 people were missing off the Florida coast after a Cuban migrant boat sank due to the hurricane.
‘Life-threatening, catastrophic flooding’
The tropical storm conditions began in the southern state on Wednesday morning local time and the severe conditions are expected to continue overnight.
Heavy rainfall will spread across the peninsula throughout Thursday and reach parts of the southeastern US later this week and over the weekend.
About two-thirds of Florida is in the peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
The NHC added: “Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida, southeastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina.
“Widespread, prolonged moderate to major river flooding expected across central Florida.”
‘A nasty, nasty two days’
Mr Biden said he had spoken to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday about Ian, adding that the federal government had met every request for help from the coastal state.
“This is going to be a nasty day, two days,” Mr DeSantis said. “Probably, we think now, it will be exiting the peninsula sometime on Thursday.”
Hurricane Ian tears across Cuba
Hurricane Ian leaves millions in Cuba without electricity
Cuba working to restore power
Meanwhile, Cuban officials said they have begun to restore some power after Ian knocked out electricity to the entire island while devastating some of the country’s most important tobacco farms.
Ian hit the island’s western tip as a major storm.
It made landfall there on Tuesday as a category three storm, causing flooding, as houses were damaged and trees toppled in the strong winds.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and others fled the area ahead of its arrival.
Russia says it scrambled fighter jet to intercept two US bombers over Baltic Sea
A Russian Su-35 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept two US strategic bombers over the Baltic Sea, Russia’s defence ministry has said.
“Two air targets flying in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation” were detected by radar on Monday, it said in a statement on the social media platform Telegram.
The aircraft were identified as two US Air Force B-52 strategic bombers “flying in the direction of the Russian Federation’s state border”.
A Su-35 fighter jet took to the air to prevent a border violation, the ministry continued.
“After the foreign military aircraft moved away from the Russian Federation state border, the Russian fighter returned to its base airfield,” it added.
The National Defense Center of the Russian Federation said: “The flight of the Russian fighter was carried out in strict accordance with the international rules for the use of airspace.
“Violations of the state border of the Russian Federation are not allowed.”
The US has not yet responded to the claim.
It comes after the crash of a US military surveillance drone into the Black Sea on 14 March after it was intercepted by Russian jets.
The US Air Force released a video it said showed a Russian jet intercepting the drone and dumping fuel on it over the Black Sea.
I was a fighter pilot – this is how the US drone crash happened
It said two Russian Su-27 jets flew close to the MQ-9 Reaper before one hit its propeller and forced remote operators to crash it into the ocean.
The incident highlighted the increasing risk of direct confrontation between the superpowers as fighting continues in nearby Ukraine.
American officials accused the Russian pilots of flying in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner”.
Moscow denied the jets behaved dangerously and said they didn’t come into contact with the drone, claiming it crashed due to “sharp manoeuvring”.
Gwyneth Paltrow ski crash court case starts in US after man accused her of seriously injuring him in ‘hit-and-run’
Gwyneth Paltrow has appeared in court in the US over claims she seriously injured a man in a “hit-and-run” skiing crash in 2016.
She is accused of skiing “out of control” and hitting retired optometrist Terry Sanderson at Deer Valley Resort in Utah.
The lawsuit claimed that Paltrow crashed into him, “knocking him down hard, knocking him out, and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries”.
Paltrow has alleged that Mr Sanderson is actually the culprit in the collision, and has been overstating his injuries.
The Hollywood star, also the founder and CEO of the wellness company goop, sat in the court wearing a high-necked cream jumper and brown trousers as opening statements in the case began.
Lawrence Buhler, representing Mr Sanderson, told jurors that Paltrow’s behaviour on the mountain in 2016 had been “reckless”.
Mr Sanderson first sued Paltrow in 2019, seeking $3.1m (£2.5m) in damages.
He is now seeking $300,000 (£245,000) after that claim was dropped.
The original 2019 claim stated that after hitting him, “Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured”.
It also said a Deer Valley ski instructor who had been training Paltrow saw Mr Sanderson had been injured but made no attempt to help him.
The instructor did not send for help and later accused Mr Sanderson of having caused the crash in a “false report to protect his client”, the claim said.
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The actress countersued for a symbolic $1, saying it was Mr Sanderson who had caused the crash and delivered a full “body blow”.
Paltrow’s claim said she was shaken by the collision and stopped skiing with her family for the day.
It added that Mr Sanderson apologised to her and said he was fine.
The trial is scheduled to last for eight days.
What happens if Donald Trump is arrested?
Donald Trump has claimed he is set to be arrested over an alleged hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
If right in his assertion, the former US president could be charged by authorities in New York within days.
But what will happen if he is indicted – and how will both sides present their case?
What Trump has said
In a post on his Truth Social platform on Saturday, Mr Trump said he expected to be arrested on Tuesday and urged his supporters to protest against the authorities if he is detained and indicted.
He published a long statement describing the investigation as a “political witch-hunt trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party”.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said, before criticising a “corrupt, depraved and weaponised justice system”.
However, it’s worth noting a spokesperson for Mr Trump said he had not been notified of any pending arrest.
The case – that the Republican made a payment to Ms Daniels towards the end of the 2016 presidential campaign in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair – is one of several related to Mr Trump.
Other ongoing cases include a Georgia election interference probe and two federal investigations into his role in the 6 January insurrection in the US Capitol.
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What Trump will do
Mr Trump has accused Manhattan’s district attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of targeting him for political gain, and may try to argue for the dismissal of the charges on those grounds.
He could also challenge whether the statute of limitations – five years in this instance – should have run out.
But in New York, the statute of limitations can be extended if the defendant has been out of state – Trump may argue that serving as US president should not apply.
Politically, how any possible indictment may affect Mr Trump’s chances in the 2024 presidential election is unclear.
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He could be the first former US president to face criminal prosecution – right as polls show him leading other potential rivals for the Republican nomination, including controversial Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
This could lead to the unprecedented situation in which Mr Trump would stand trial as he campaigns in 2024.
If elected, he would not have the power to pardon himself of criminal charges.
In any case, Mr Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina told CNBC on Friday that he would surrender if charged. If he refused to come voluntarily, prosecutors could seek to have him extradited from Florida, where he currently lives.
In an ironic twist, as governor, Mr DeSantis would typically have to give formal approval for an extradition.
Trump arrest ‘would be politically motivated’
What prosecutors will do
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has spent nearly five years investigating Mr Trump.
It has presented evidence to a New York grand jury that relates to a £114,000 ($130,000) payment to Ms Daniels during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
It is alleged the payment was given in exchange for Ms Daniels’ silence about an affair between her and Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has denied the affair and accused Ms Daniels of extortion.
Any indictment by the district attorney’s office would require Mr Trump to travel to its New York office to surrender.
But Mr Trump’s lawyers will likely arrange a date and time with authorities, as it is a white-collar case. And then his mugshot and fingerprints would be taken before appearing for arraignment in court.
Mr Trump could also be charged with falsifying business records – typically classed as a misdemeanour – after he reimbursed his former attorney Michael Cohen for the payments, falsely recorded as legal services.
To elevate it to a felony, prosecutors would have to show Mr Trump falsified records to cover up a second crime.
In any case, legal experts have estimated that any trial of the former US president would be more than a year away.
That’s why if it happened, it could coincide with the final months of a 2024 election in which Mr Trump seeks a controversial return to the White House.
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