Hurricane Ian left parts of Fort Myers Beach, Florida completely devastated
FORT MYERS BEACH (United States) (AFP) – As Pete Belinda and his wife walked slowly on a road outside Fort Myers Beach on Florida’s southwest coast, they each dragged a large suitcase behind them.
“That’s all we have left,” said Belinda, visibly trembling and exhausted.
The city, a quiet place on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, became the epicenter of the devastation as Hurricane Ian hit Florida on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm.
The couple lived in the basement of their daughter’s home, where they moved six months earlier, but the storm left them without a home.
“It just turned upside down, wet and slick with mud,” Belinda said.
“We don’t really know what we are going to do now. We are reaching out to some friends and family for a place to live for a while because we have nowhere to go.”
Ian cut a swath of devastation across parts of Fort Myers Beach closest to the beach
Fort Myers Beach is now deserted, only crossed by emergency services vehicles and a handful of people who have gone home are assessing what they’ve lost.
The part of the city worst affected by Ian, the area closest to the sea on Estero Island, was turned into a ruined field.
Police have restricted access for people who do not live in the neighbourhood, but photos taken from a helicopter showed the extent of the damage.
High winds destroyed the wooden houses in the area – there were not even ruins in some areas, only empty lands where there were once houses.
Rich Gibboni is one of those who lost his home.
“The second floor collapsed in the wind, and the first floor was flooded until the second floor,” he said, looking resigned.
Police have restricted access to Estero Island, the worst affected part of the city
The 50-year-old had come to another neighborhood in Fort Myers Beach to forage before heading back to Estero Island, where he was sheltering in a hotel with about 20 other people.
Nearby, 72-year-old vacation rank-and-file Chris Beals raised her hat to her head as she waited for the bus to pick her up and her husband.
Earlier in the day, the Emergency Services Patrol gave them two hours to collect their belongings and vacate the apartment they rented near the sea.
The couple traveled to Florida from England to enjoy the warm weather, and they weren’t worried about hurricane warnings.
“We didn’t think it would be this serious,” Beals said.
“I was so scared. We had never seen anything like this before.”
Storm force pushed boats ashore and cars dragged out to sea
In the neighborhood they left behind, the force of the hurricane left dozens of boats moored in the streets — some still moored on chunks of pier — and pulled cars into a nearby bay where they remained afloat.
But Gibboni said he had not given up hope after the devastation caused by Ian.
“We have to live. That’s the only way to do it,” he said.
“We have to restart. It will take a long time, so we just have to get back on our feet.”