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hurricane ian

Hurricane Ian: One of the most powerful storms recorded in US slams Florida

The US president said he would also visit Puerto Rico, a US territory that was slammed by Hurricane Fiona.

HURRICANE IAN LEFT a path of destruction in south-west Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to two million people before aiming for the Atlantic Coast.

One of the strongest hurricanes to hit the United States barrelled across the Florida peninsula overnight on Wednesday, threatening catastrophic flooding inland, the National Hurricane Centre warned.

The centre’s 2am advisory said Ian was expected to emerge over Atlantic waters later on Thursday, with flooding rains continuing across central and northern Florida.

In Port Charlotte, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency department in a hospital even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit (ITU), according to a doctor who works there.

Water gushed down on to the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients – some of whom were on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr Birgit Bodine of the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital.

Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans four storeys but patients were forced into just two because of the damage.

Ms Bodine planned to spend the night there in case people injured from the storm arrive needing help.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” she said.

Police in nearby Fort Myers received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives.

Pleas were also posted on social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves.

US President Joe Biden said “our entire country hurts” along with the people of Florida after Hurricane Ian flooded communities across the state, knocking out electrical power and forcing people into shelters.

Mr Biden said he would visit Florida and meet with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis when “conditions allow”.

The president said he would also visit Puerto Rico, a US territory that was slammed by Hurricane Fiona.

“We know many families are hurting,” Mr Biden said at the Washington headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he was briefed on federal response efforts.

“Our entire country hurts with them,”

He urged those affected by Ian to take seriously the warnings from local officials to stay safe and remain indoors.

“Don’t go outside unless you have to,” Mr Biden said. “The danger is real, to state the obvious. Please obey all warnings and direction from emergency officials.”

The destruction began to come into focus a day after Ian made landfall in Florida as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the United States.

The storm flooded homes on both coasts of the state, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses. At least one man was confirmed dead.

Mr Biden and Mr DeSantis spoke again this morning.

The president said he also had talked with several Florida mayors today and delivered the same message he shared with the governor about the federal government’s commitment to helping with the clean-up and with rebuilding: “We are here.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to provide everything they need,” Mr Biden said, adding that his instruction to them was to call him directly at the White House with their needs.

“They know how to do that.”

Mr Biden also spoke to the people of Puerto Rico, who are cleaning up and trying to rebuild after Hurricane Fiona ravaged the US island territory before Ian pummelled Florida yesterday.

“I’m committed to you and the recovery of the island,” he said. “We’ve not gone away.”

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