Ian powers up to a Category 4 hurricane as it nears Florida

Hurricane Ian strengthened to a Category 4 storm as it headed towards the US state of Florida, with forecasters warning of life-threatening storm surges and “devastating” winds after it reportedly killed two and left millions without power in Cuba.

As of 5am (09:00 GMT) on Wednesday, mandatory evacuation orders had been issued in a dozen coastal Florida counties, with voluntary evacuation recommended in several others, according to the state’s emergency officials.

Tropical storm force winds and rain were already hitting the state’s heavily populated Gulf Coast, with the Naples to Sarasota region at “highest risk” of a devastating storm surge.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned those in areas projected to be hit hardest that their “time to evacuate is coming to an end”.

Al Jazeera’s Leah Harding reports.

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