Home / News / World /  Hurricane Ian grows into 'extremely dangerous' storm after ravaging Cuba

The National Hurricane Center reported on Wednesday that Hurricane Ian has become a ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm as it is reaching the coast of Florida in USA. Forecasters have warned of life-threatening storm surges and "devastating" winds after the hurricane reportedly killed two and left millions without power in Cuba.

"Air Force hurricane hunters find Ian has strengthened into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane," the NHC said in an advisory issued at 5 am (0900 GMT), adding the storm was "expected to cause life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds and flooding".

According to the state's emergency officials, mandatory evacuation orders had been issued in a dozen coastal Florida counties, and voluntary evacuation was advised in a few more.

"Very recent data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 140 mph (220 km/h) with higher gusts," the NHC said.

The storm was anticipated to make landfall later on Wednesday, move across central Florida, and then make its way out of Florida by late Thursday to emerge in the western Atlantic.

Earlier NHC had said that a "life-threatening storm surge is expected along the Florida west coast and the Lower Florida Keys," with "devastating wind damage" expected near Ian's core.

It also added, "Catastrophic flooding is expected across portions of central Florida with considerable flooding in southern Florida, northern Florida, southeastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina."

Ron DeSantis, Florida's Governor said on Tuesday night that there had already been at least two "radar-indicated tornadoes" in the state, and warned those in areas projected to be hit hardest that their "time to evacuate is coming to an end."

"You need to evacuate now. You're going to start feeling major impacts of this storm relatively soon," he said.

US President Joe Biden echoed the need to heed evacuation warnings, saying that Ian "could be a very severe hurricane, life-threatening and devastating in its impact."

According to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden and DeSantis spoke on Tuesday night about storm preparations.

Widespread blackout in Cuba

The Insmet meteorological institute reported that on Tuesday, Ian left all of Cuba in complete darkness after battering the country's west for more than five hours as a Category 3 hurricane before moving back out over the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm damaged Cuba's power network and left the island "without electrical service," state electricity company Union Electrica said.

Only the few people with gasoline-powered generators had access to electricity on the island of more than 11 million people. Others had to make do with flashlights or candles at home, and lit their way with cell phones as they walked the streets.

About 40,000 people were evacuated across Pinar del Rio province, which bore the brunt of the storm, local authorities said.

Hurricane Ian left two dead in Cuba

At least two people have been reported dead in Pinar del Rio province, according to Cuban state media.

Residents of Cuba described "destruction" and shared pictures of flooded streets and downed trees on social media. The NHC estimated Ian's maximum wind speeds at 125 miles per hour (205 kilometres per hour) at the time of impact.

Precautions in Florida

In Florida, 3,200 national guardsmen have reportedly been called up, and another 1,800 are en route, according to the Pentagon. To assist residents in securing their homes against flooding, authorities in several municipalities have been distributing free sandbags.

Starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Tampa International Airport operations were suspended. Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Biden has already authorised emergency assistance for Florida (FEMA).

NASA, on the state's east coast, also took precautions, rolling back its massive Moon rocket into a storage hanger for protection.

Like DeSantis, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell highlighted the danger of storm surge, saying it was the agency's "biggest concern."

"If people are told to evacuate by their local officials, please listen to them. The decision you choose to make may be the difference between life and death," she said.

(With inputs from AFP)

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