Recovery efforts ongoing 1 month after devastating Hurricane Ian
Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Oct 27 (EFE).- Recovery and clean-up efforts are continuing in parts of Florida one month after the passage of Hurricane Ian, a devastating natural disaster that left at least 118 people dead and tens of billions of dollars in material damage.
Ian made landfall on Sept. 28 on Florida’s southwestern coast as a Category 4 hurricane, bludgeoning that area of the state with maximum sustained winds of up to 150 miles (240 kilometers) per hour and dangerous storm surge.
It then moved northeast across the Sunshine State before heading out over the Atlantic Ocean and making landfall again in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.
In Fort Myers Beach, a barrier island on Florida’s southwest coast, Efe on Thursday observed local residents and teams of workers as they continued to clear debris left behind by Ian in that tourist zone.
Fallen branches and trunks piled up on the street were interspersed with construction material, while in other areas scattered pieces of furniture are the only visible remains of what had been a decades-old trailer park.
The power outages that affected customers up and down the southwestern coast, however, proved to be only a temporary problem.
According to the specialized website Poweroutage.us, only 6,300 customers are currently without electricity in Florida, or just over a quarter of the 24,000 customers without power in Puerto Rico, which was battered by an earlier major hurricane (Fiona).
State forensic officials have confirmed that 118 deaths were directly caused by Ian, which left thousands homeless – many of whom are still being housed in hotels and shelters – and caused major damage to roads, bridges, government and commercial buildings and agriculture.
Fifty-seven of the deaths occurred in Lee County, where Fort Myers Beach is located.
More than 700,000 Florida households have applied for individual federal assistance in the wake of Ian, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which says it anticipates an additional 130,000 requests.
FEMA said that as of Thursday it has allocated more than $1.5 billion toward Florida’s recovery effort, a figure that will continue to rise as new needs are identified.
Of that total, $654 million has gone to individuals and $322 million to the state of Florida for its emergency response efforts.
Florida’s agricultural sector suffered losses totaling some $1.8 billion as a result of Hurricane Ian, according to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Agriculture.
FEMA in recent days approved a request from the state of Florida to use satellite imagery and other technological tools to expedite the removal of debris from private and commercial property – one of the most arduous tasks following a major hurricane.
On Wednesday, officials said the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, a reinsurance fund for property insurers operating in Florida, estimated Wednesday it could pay out $10 billion to companies because of the damage wrought by Ian.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, for its part, said that through this week more than 410,000 claims have been filed in the wake of Ian, mostly related to residential properties.
Experts are projecting that total economic damage from Ian could climb to more than $60 billion. EFE