fort meyers florida hurrican ian damage
© Getty
Water floods a damaged trailer park in Fort Myers, Florida, October 2. 2022.
A massive clean-up has begun in Florida, and North and South Carolina, after Hurricane Ian cut a swathe of destruction that left at least 21 people dead.

Ian is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. mainland and has caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.

New images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show beach cottages and a motel building that lined the shores of Florida's Sanibel Island now wiped away by the storm surge.

The popular destination for holidaymakers and retirees was cut off when a causeway was rendered impassable.

With a population of about 10,000, the town is a tourist destination known for its oak-lined streets and more than 50 sites on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The town was heavily damaged by 1989's Hurricane Hugo.

Ian is now a post-tropical cyclone, weakening but still forecast to bring treacherous conditions to parts of the United States on Saturday (local time) including the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia.

"Major to record river flooding will continue across central Florida through next week, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The Orlovista neighbourhood following Hurricane Ian. Photo: Getty

"Limited flash, urban and small stream flooding is possible across the central Appalachians and the southern Mid-Atlantic this weekend, with minor river flooding expected over the coastal Carolinas."

The storm struck Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday, turning beach towns into disaster areas.

On Friday, it pummelled waterfront Georgetown, north of the historic city of Charleston in South Carolina, with wind speeds of 140km/h.

Roads were flooded and blocked by trees while a number of piers were damaged.

More than 1.7 million homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas and Florida on Saturday, according to the tracking website

Both the number of casualties and repair costs remain unclear, but the extent of the damage was becoming apparent as Florida entered its third day after Ian first hit.

There have been reports of at least 21 deaths in Florida, Kevin Guthrie, director of the state's Division of Emergency Management, said, stressing that some of those remained unconfirmed.

Some 10,000 people were unaccounted for, he said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power.

"Those older homes that just aren't as strong built, they got washed into the sea," Governor Ron DeSantis said.

"If you are hunkering down in that, that is something that I think would be very difficult to be survivable."

Insurers are bracing for a hit of between $44 billion and $73 billion in what could be the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to US property data and analytics company CoreLogic.

US President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration, making federal resources available to counties impacted by the storm.

"We're just beginning to see the scale of that destruction. It's likely to rank among the worst ... in the nation's history," he said.

President Biden also declared an emergency in North Carolina.

Fort Myers, a city close to where the eye of the storm first came ashore, absorbed a major blow, with numerous houses destroyed.