Hurricane Ian lashes Cuba as Florida braces for ‘major disaster’

Cubans prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, Pinar Del Rio, Cuba - 26 Sep 2022

Cubans prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Ian in Pinar Del Rio

Hurricane Ian has made landfall in western Cuba as a category three storm, bringing wind speeds of up to 205km/h (125mph).

Cuban authorities declared emergencies in six areas, with forecasters warning of storm surges on the coast along with flash floods and mudslides.

Tens of thousands of people were told to leave their homes and seek shelter.

Ian is expected to strengthen en route to Florida, where the governor has warned of a potential “major disaster”.

As of 09:00 GMT on Tuesday, the centre of the storm was located about five miles (8km) south of the city of Pinar del Rio in Cuba, moving north at nearly 19km/h, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports.

It said Cuba could see up to 30cm (12in) of rain from Hurricane Ian. Some 38,000 people were evacuated in the province of Pinar del Rio, according to AFP news agency.

Hurricane conditions are expected along the west coast of Florida on Wednesday morning, with tropical storm conditions possibly beginning late on Tuesday.

Some parts of the state have not seen a hurricane of this magnitude in about a century.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned of “broad impacts throughout the state”, and residents have been stocking up on food, water, medicine and fuel.

“This is a really big hurricane at this point,” he said at a Monday news conference, urging residents to “remain calm” but “do what you need to be prepared”.

The governor declared a state of emergency for all of Florida over the weekend and has activated 5,000 National Guard troops to assist with relief efforts.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 SeptPredicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 Sept

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 Sept

Mr DeSantis said Ian posed a risk of “dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, strong winds, hazardous seas, and isolated tornadic activity”.

Along Florida’s Tampa Bay coast, grocery store shelves were quickly cleared of basic necessities and there were long queues at gas stations.

“It’s never too early to prepare,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor tweeted.

The Tampa area could receive its first direct hit from a hurricane since 1921, officials say, and may see 3m (10ft) of storm surge cause flooding along the coast.

Local officials in Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale are distributing free sandbags to help residents protect their homes from flooding.

Meteorologists have said flash flooding is possible by Tuesday in the Florida peninsula and Florida Keys as the hurricane approaches.

A satellite image of the stormA satellite image of the storm

A satellite image of the storm

The White House has also made its own emergency declaration, which will help federal and state officials co-ordinate disaster relief and assistance.

Federal officials are pre-positioning millions of meals and litres of water in Florida and neighbouring Alabama.

President Joe Biden has postponed a planned visit to Florida on Tuesday.

The launch of Nasa’s most powerful ever rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida has also been delayed. The Artemis 1 rocket was rolled off its launch pad on Monday.

The Caribbean is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Fiona, which tore through the region last week.

Moving northward to parts of the Atlantic Canada coastline and eastern Quebec, Fiona claimed two lives, washed homes into the sea and downed power lines over the weekend.