Hurricane Ian strengthens and set to make landfall again – number of deaths in Florida is uncertain
Hurricane Ian is gaining strength and veering towards the Carolinas – with uncertainty over how many fatalities the storm has caused in Florida.
This is one of the strongest-ever storms to hit the US – and emergency crews are trying to reach stranded Floridians after Ian cut a path of destruction across the state.
Over 2.6 million power outages have been reported, with officials warning of treacherous floodwaters.
There was virtually no mobile phone service in some areas, and internet connectivity was also affected.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stopped short of confirming how many people have been killed, but said: “We fully expect to have mortality from this hurricane.”
And President Joe Biden said: “The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”
At least nine people have died following Hurricane Ian’s vicious lashing throughout Florida, according to an NBC News tally – although some other organisations place the number higher.
Two of the fatalities occurred in Sarasota, according to the county’s sheriff’s department. One person was confirmed dead in Volusia County and six more in Charlotte County.
Identifications have not been released and the state of Florida has refused to officially comment on fatalities.
‘It crushed us’
According to NBC News, at least 12 deaths have been linked to Hurricane Ian in Florida so far.
A 72-year-old man died after he went outside during the storm to drain his pool.
The sheriff of one of the hardest-hit areas – Lee County – told US media that deaths could be “in the hundreds” and that he had received thousands of 911 calls.
“It crushed us,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said. “We still cannot access many of the people that are in need.”
There are fears that many in the hardest-hit areas were unable to call for help because of the outages to power and mobile phone networks.
It’s not over yet – where is Ian heading next?
Ian is now back in the Atlantic Ocean, but is expected to make landfall again at 2pm local time (7pm UK time) later today as a category one hurricane.
Forecasts suggest it will bring life-threatening flooding, storm surge, strong winds and potentially landslides and tornadoes to Georgia as well as North and South Carolina.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is urging residents to take precautions, and warned: “This storm is still dangerous.”
A hurricane warning is in effect for hundreds of miles of coastline.
In South Carolina, the city of Charleston is particularly at risk. A report commissioned by local officials suggests 90% of all residential properties are vulnerable to storm surge flooding.
Florida’s ‘historic’ damage
Mr DeSantis called the damage in Florida “historic” – and disaster officials believe thousands could be displaced in the long term.
Walt Disney World and other tourist attractions in central Florida appeared to have avoided severe damage from Ian, but many businesses on the state’s southwestern coast – also a tourist hotspot – were destroyed and face a long rebuilding process.
Mr Biden has declared a major disaster, releasing federal funds to pay for measures such as temporary housing for those displaced.
Ian was a category four storm with winds up to 150mph when it struck southwest Florida on Wednesday, making it the joint fifth-strongest hurricane to hit the US.
At least 700 confirmed rescues have taken place across the state, with first responders going from door to door in Ian’s aftermath.
Locals are being urged to take care when using chainsaws and ladders – with emergency officials warning the number of “indirect deaths” during the clean-up could exceed fatalities caused by the hurricane itself.
Most schools in Florida are expected to reopen today or on Monday, and flights from Orlando Airport are set to resume in the coming hours.
‘Climate change means more storms like Ian’
Preliminary reports from scientists who study extreme weather suggest human-caused climate change increased Hurricane Ian’s rainfall by 10%.
A warmer atmosphere can contain more water vapour. Researcher Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said: “Climate change didn’t cause the storm, but it did cause it to be wetter.”
MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel added: “This business about very, very heavy rain is something we’ve expected to see because of climate change.
“We’ll see more storms like Ian.”
Strikes on energy mean Ukraine is facing its toughest 125-day wintertime in post-Soviet history, energy boss Maksym Timchenko says
This winter will be the toughest in Ukraine’s history as an independent state as Russia targets power and water supplies, worsening the impact of the war, an energy boss has said.
But Maksym Timchenko told Sky News that Moscow will fail to turn out the lights for too long with its missile strikes because of his country’s ability to repair the damage quickly.
The chief executive of DTEK, the largest private Ukrainian energy firm, predicted that people will endure the next 125 days of wintertime “as brave Ukrainians” despite the threat of new Russian attacks against the energy grid.
“We will survive and we will win,” he said.
Workers from DTEK as well as Ukrenergo, the national electricity company, have mobilised – at great personal risk – to repair power stations, substations and other parts of the network that have been targeted by Russian airstrikes since October in a new energy frontline.
“This has the same importance for Ukrainian victories as the military frontline,” Mr Timchenko said.
Four of his employees have so far been killed on duty since Russia launched its full-scale war in February. Three died in rocket strikes and the fourth was killed by a mine.
“I’m so grateful to our people… who work in this industry,” he said. “These are real heroes and will stay in the history of Ukraine forever.”
With Russia thought already to have bombed more than a third of Ukraine’s energy system, the boss of DTEK predicted the coming months would be the harshest since at least 1991 when Ukraine gained its independence from the then Soviet Union.
“I can say with full confidence [it] will be the most difficult winter because we have never seen such destruction, such behaviour of our enemy, and we never lived under such conditions – constant rocket attacks and destruction and damage and explosions,” he said.
Equally, “I have full confidence that we will cope”.
Mr Timchenko said all six of his company’s thermal power stations had been hit, some of them several times, but they were all back up and running.
“In this fight, you learn a lot: how to restore power supply; how to restore the system; what creative technical solutions can be found so that we bring back our power stations,” he said.
“I have a strong belief that there is no chance that a complete blackout can continue for a long time so that people cannot live.”
But he appealed to the international community for more electrical transformers to assist with efforts to reconnect the grid. “Today, equipment is more important than money for us.”
A major attack on 23 November knocked power out across much of the country for tens of millions of people. Even many homes in the capital Kyiv were without electricity and water for at least 48 hours – the worst impact of Russia’s new tactic so far.
However, Mr Timchenko said despite the damage, it had been possible to retrieve power supplies. “Now we start this countdown of the winter season – 125 days – and trust me, we will get through these 125 days as brave Ukrainians,” he said.
In one home on the outskirts of Kyiv, a couple in their 70s said they would never give up no matter how long they must go without electricity and running water.
Liubov Sudakova and Volodymyr Sudakov are lucky because they have a log stove that keeps the house warm when the power is out. They have also stocked up on food – potatoes and other vegetables – grown in their garden.
“We just need the bombs to stop falling,” said Liubov. “When bombs were flying in the summer… I was in my garden and heard this ‘woosh’ and later boom. So that was scary.”
Pele: Brazil football legend back in hospital as he fights cancer
Brazilian football legend Pele is back in hospital, according to his daughter.
But in an Instagram post, Kely Nascimento also said there was “no emergency”, as he continues to fight colon cancer.
She said he had been admitted so that doctors could regulate his medication.
She wrote: “Lots of alarm in the media today concerning my dad’s health. He is in the hospital regulating medication.
“There is no emergency or new dire prediction. I will be there for New Years and promise to post some pictures.”
The football star had a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021 and has since been in and out of hospital for treatment on a regular basis.
ESPN is reporting the 82-year-old had been admitted to Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo with “general swelling” and was having cardiac issues.
And medics were concerned that chemotherapy treatment was not having the expected results.
Pele is to have further tests for a more in-depth assessment of his health issues, it added.
His manager and the hospital did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Pele is arguably the greatest footballer of all time.
He burst on to the global scene as a 17-year-old at the 1958 World Cup, helping Brazil to the first of their record five successes.
Injury affected Pele’s contribution to the 1962 and 1966 finals, but he led Brazil to a third triumph, this time in Mexico in 1970 as part of what is widely regarded as the greatest international team of all time.
Brazil‘s leading scorer, with 77 goals in 92 matches for his country, he embodied the idea of football as “the beautiful game”, one played with skill, speed and imagination.
There is much dispute over the number of goals overall he scored during his career, which Guinness World Records puts at 1,279.
However, critics believe that figure is too high, boosted by hundreds scored in friendlies and practice matches.
Including those, he scored at almost a goal a game throughout his 22-year career.
Others put his total at 757 goals, although his main club, Santos, says his tally was closer to 1,000.
In 2013, he was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur (award of honour) in recognition of his career and achievements.
Man arrested over mass drowning of migrants in English Channel fighting extradition to France
An alleged ringleader of a people smuggling gang, accused of sending more than 30 migrants to their deaths in the English Channel, is fighting extradition to France.
Harem Abwbaker, a UK asylum seeker, is said to have charged the migrants $3,200 (£2,680) each for the trip in November last year.
Appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the 32-year-old was accused of putting them in a badly-designed boat with inadequate navigation or life-saving equipment.
When the boat deflated and sank in darkness two hours after leaving France – and all but two on board drowned – he allegedly offered their relatives money to keep quiet.
French authorities outline allegations
Two migrants survived and identified Abwbaker as the ‘right-hand man’ of the gang’s leader, according to an extradition warrant issued by the French authorities.
The document also claims he personally helped the migrants on to the boat and electronic data showed his mobile phone was at the launch site on the French coast.
The warrant states the migrants were powerless to respond to an emergency, and “had no chance of facing any event at sea,” Prosecutor Michael McHardy told Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Suspect wants to prove ‘innocence’
Abwbaker, a Kurd, was arrested in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on Tuesday morning. In court he gave his address as the town’s Ramada Hotel.
He sat in the dock in jeans and a grey sweatshirt, scratching his beard during the 30-minute hearing.
Asked if he agreed to be extradited, he said through an interpreter: “If I return now, how can I come back once I’ve proved my innocence? What you’re talking about is my life and my freedom.”
Judge Paul Goldspring said: “It’s clear he’s not consenting.”
It’s previously been reported that 27 bodies were recovered the day after the boat sank and four migrants were still missing.
According to the extradition warrant, the French Navy recovered 25 bodies.
Abwbaker did not ask for bail and was remanded in custody ahead of an extradition hearing in April. He will appear in court again for a preliminary hearing on 29 December.
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