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October 2022 – rdspinvestments

October 2022

Greece-Bulgaria pipeline starts operations to boost non-Russian gas flows

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Commodities 2 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 06:10AM ET)

Greece-Bulgaria pipeline starts operations to boost non-Russian gas flows© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – Armenians protest against Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in front of the venue, where the ceremony takes place to mark the start of commercial operations of the gas interconnector link between Greece and Bulgaria, in Sofia, Bulgaria Octo

SOFIA (Reuters) – Greece and Bulgaria started commercial operation of a long-delayed gas pipeline on Saturday which will help decrease southeast Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and boost energy security.

The 182-km pipeline will provide a relief to Bulgaria, which has been struggling to secure gas supplies at affordable prices since the end of April, when Russia’s Gazprom (MCX:.MM) cut off deliveries over Sofia’s refusal to pay in roubles.

Russia has decreased its gas deliveries to Europe after the West imposed sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, leaving European Union countries scrambling to secure alternative supplies amid surging prices.

“This pipeline is a game changer. It’s a game changer for Bulgaria and for Europe’s energy security. And it means freedom. It means freedom from dependency on Russian gas,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during an inauguration ceremony in Sofia attended by the leaders of Bulgaria, Greece, Azerbaijan, Romania, Serbia and North Macedonia.

“Both here in Bulgaria and across Europe people are feeling the consequences of Russia’s war. But thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough gas for the winter,” she said.

The Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline will transport 1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Azeri gas to Bulgaria.

With an initial capacity of 3 bcm per year and plans to later raise this to 5 bcm, the pipeline could provide non-Russian gas to neighbouring Serbia, North Macedonia, Romania and further to Moldova and Ukraine.

It will carry gas from the northern Greek city of Komotini to Stara Zagora in Bulgaria. IGB is linked to another pipeline, part of Southern Gas Corridor that carries Azeri gas to Europe.

On Friday, gas operators in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia proposed to transport increased Azeri shipments through their networks to central Europe.

The 240 million euro ($235.18 million) pipeline is controlled by a joint venture between Bulgarian state energy company BEH, Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison.

($1 = 1.0205 euros)

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United Airlines to halt service at New York’s JFK airport in October

Stock Markets 5 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 09:35AM ET)

United Airlines to halt service at New York's JFK airport in October© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passengers carry their luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, U.S., December 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -United Airlines said on Friday it will suspend service in late October to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK).

Earlier this month, United had threatened to take the action if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not grant the air carrier additional flights.

United has been flying just twice daily to San Francisco and Los Angeles from JFK, the busiest New York-area airport, after resuming service in 2021.

“Given our current, too-small-to-be-competitive schedule out of JFK — coupled with the start of the Winter season where more airlines will operate their slots as they resume JFK flying — United has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend service at JFK,” United said in a memo seen by Reuters. The airline did not specify when it might resume service.

United said its “discussions with FAA have been constructive” but added “it’s also clear that process to add additional capacity at JFK will take some time.”

United said the decision would impact 100 employees who work at JFK but emphasized that “no one is losing their job” and employees will transition to other nearby stations.

United has been working to pursue additional slots – which are takeoff and landing authorizations – through the FAA and by seeking commercial agreements to acquire slots from other airlines.

The FAA said Friday it is “dedicated to doing its part to safely expand New York City airports and airspace capacity. We will follow our fair and well-established process to award future slots to increase competition.”

United said without permanent slots it cannot serve JFK “effectively compared to the larger schedules and more attractive flight times flown by” JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:) and American Airlines (NASDAQ:).

United in 2015 struck a long-term deal to lease 24 year-round slots at JFK to Delta Air Lines (NYSE:) as it ended JFK service to concentrate at its nearby Newark hub in northern New Jersey.

United argues there is room to grow at JFK, the 13th-busiest U.S. airport, because the FAA and the Port Authority since 2008 have made significant infrastructure investments, including “the widening of runways, construction of multi-entrance taxiways, and the creation of aligned high-speed turnoffs.”

Sheryl Sandberg gets personal security services as she leaves Meta

Stock Markets 8 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 09:40AM ET)

Sheryl Sandberg gets personal security services as she leaves Meta© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Meta, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley Media Conference, in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., July 6, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) – Meta Platforms Inc said on Friday its board had approved providing personal security services to former Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, citing “continuing threats to her safety”.

The company, however, did not elaborate on the threats that Sandberg, one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley, faces. It expects to continue to pay for security services at her residences and during her personal travel from Oct. 1 till June 30 next year.

Sandberg, a close associate of Meta’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, said in June she would depart the social media giant after a 14-year stint when she led the company’s often-criticized ads-based business model.

Under Sandberg, the company was also buffeted by revelations in 2018 that U.K. consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of its U.S. users to target election advertising.

The same year, U.N. human rights investigators said the use of Facebook (NASDAQ:) had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled violence against the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

Sandberg will no longer be an employee after Sept. 30 but will remain on its board, the Facebook-owner said in a regulatory filing.

Previously, Meta has spent heavily on the security of its top executives. Last year, the company spent $26.8 million for the personal security and private aircraft of Zuckerberg, it revealed in April.

Eni expects halt in Russian gas flow to extend into Monday

Stock Markets 14 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 03:12PM ET)

Eni expects halt in Russian gas flow to extend into Monday© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Italian energy company Eni is seen at a gas station in Rome, Italy September 30, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

By Federico Maccioni and Francesca Landini

MILAN (Reuters) -Italy’s Eni said it would not receive any of the gas it had ordered from Russia’s Gazprom (MCX:) for delivery this weekend, although the firms said they were working to fix this.

Russian gas supplies through the Tarvisio entry point will be at zero for Oct. 1, Eni, the biggest importer of Russian gas in Italy, said in a statement on its website on Saturday.

The Italian group later added that it would not receive any of the requested imports for Oct. 2, and that the situation was expected to remain the same into Monday.

Moscow and several European countries, including Germany, have been at loggerheads over the supply of from Russia since the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Tensions soared this week after leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines linking Russia and Germany spewed tonnes of methane into the Baltic Sea, in what the U.N. believes could be the largest leak of the climate-damaging gas ever recorded.

On Saturday, the operator of Nord Stream 2 said gas had finally stopped leaking out, five days after the initial rupture, which both Russia and the West blamed on sabotage.

The European Union says Moscow is using the flow of gas needed for energy in the region as an economic weapon, something that Russia has consistently denied, blaming instead the impact of Western sanctions for any disruptions in supply.

Gazprom said in a statement on Telegram the problem was the result of regulatory changes in Austria. It said gas transit through the country had been suspended after its grid operator refused to confirm transport nominations, or the amount Gazprom planned to ship.

The Austrian government said Gazprom had not signed the contracts needed.

“At the beginning of each gas year, various technical changes in the market model come into force,” the energy ministry said in a statement. “Contractual changes are necessary for this. These contracts have not yet been signed by Gazprom. Transport nominations for today could therefore not be accepted. A solution is currently being worked on at the technical level at full speed.”

NEW RULES

A spokesperson for Eni said Austria continued to receive gas on its border with Slovakia.

A spokesperson for Austria’s OMV said supplies from Russia were not an issue. “The volumes nominated for today’s gas day were significantly higher for OMV today than of late,” he said.

Italy has secured additional gas imports this year from alternative suppliers to make up for a fall in flows from Russia after the start of the war in Ukraine.

Russian gas now accounts for around 10% of Italian imports, down from around 40%, a source close to the matter said, while the share from Algeria and the Nordics has increased.

Elsewhere, Gazprom cut natural gas supplies to Moldova by around 30%, Vadim Ceban, director of gas firm Moldovagaz, said.

On Friday, Moldova’s deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said Gazprom had warned it about the reduction.

Spinu said on Saturday that technical problems caused the reduction and Moldova would ask Gazprom to increase supplies.

Ukraine troops say they take key town, Putin ally mulls possible nuclear response

Ukraine troops say they take key town, Putin ally mulls possible nuclear response

By Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian troops said on Saturday they had taken the key bastion of Lyman in occupied eastern Ukraine, a stinging defeat that prompted a close ally of President Vladimir Putin to call for the possible use of low-grade nuclear weapons.

The capture came just a day after Putin proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions – including Donetsk, where Lyman is located – and placed them under Russia’s nuclear umbrella, at a ceremony that was condemned by Kyiv and the West as an illegitimate farce.

The Ukrainian soldiers made the claim in a video that was recorded outside the town council building in the centre of Lyman and posted on social media by Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office.

“Dear Ukrainians – today the armed forces of Ukraine … liberated and took control of the settlement of Lyman, Donetsk region,” one of the soldiers says. At the end of the video, a group of Ukrainian soldiers throw Russian flags down from the building’s roof and raise a Ukrainian flag in their place.

Hours earlier Russia’s defence ministry had announced it was pulling troops out of the area “in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement”.

Russia had used Lyman as a logistics and transport hub for its operations in the north of the Donetsk region. Its capture is Ukraine’s biggest battlefield gain since a lightning counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region last month.

Zelenskiy promised more quick successes in the Donbas, which covers the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are largely under Russian control.

“Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags in Donbas has increased. There will be even more a week’s time,” he said in an evening video address.

He also indicated Ukrainian troops had taken the village of Torske, on the main road out of Lyman to the east.

The recent successes have infuriated Putin allies such as Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region, who said he felt compelled to speak out.

“In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram before Zelenskiy spoke.

Other top officials, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, have suggested Russia may need to resort to nuclear weapons, but Kadyrov’s call was the most urgent and explicit.

Putin said last week that he was not bluffing when he said he was prepared to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity” with all available means, and on Friday made clear this extended to the new regions claimed by Moscow.

Washington says it would respond decisively to any use of nuclear weapons.

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said before the capture that Russia had 5,000 to 5,500 troops at Lyman but the number encircled could be lower.

Neither side’s battlefield assertions could be independently verified.

LOGISTICS HUB

Kadyrov said Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, the commander overseeing Lyman, was a “mediocrity” who should be stripped of his medals and sent to the front. Kadyrov said he had warned army chief General Valery Gerasimov of a looming disaster.

“The general assured me he had no doubts about Lapin’s talent for leadership and did not think a retreat was possible,” he said.

Ukraine says taking Lyman will allow it to advance into the Luhansk region, whose full capture Moscow announced in early July after weeks of grinding advances.

“Lyman is important because it is the next step towards the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. It is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it is psychologically very important,” Cherevatyi said.

The Donbas has been a major focus for Russia since soon after the start of Moscow’s invasion on Feb. 24 in what it called a “special military operation” to demilitarise its neighbour.

Putin proclaimed the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be Russian land on Friday – a swathe of territory equal to about 18% of Ukraine’s total surface land area.

Ukraine and its Western allies branded Russia’s move as illegal. Kyiv vowed to continue liberating its land of Russian forces and said it would not hold peace talks with Moscow while Putin remained president.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelenskiy, mocked the Kremlin ceremony on Friday announcing the annexation.

“Now Russian troops are leaving another strategic city and propagandists are looking for culprits. Reality can hurt if you live in fantasy world,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter (NYSE:).

Retired U.S. General Ben Hodges said a Russian defeat in Lyman represented a major political and military embarrassment for Putin.

“This puts in bright lights that his claim is illegitimate and cannot be enforced,” he said.

North Korea fires fourth missile in a week as South flexes military muscle

North Korea fires fourth missile in a week as South flexes military muscle© Reuters. A North Korean flag flutters at the propaganda village of Gijungdong in North Korea, in this picture taken near the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, July 19, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-J

By Cynthia Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea off its east coast on Saturday, hours before South Korea staged a large military show, displaying stealth fighters and its own missiles.

Pyongyang’s fourth launch in a week comes amid a flurry of military muscle-flexing by countries in the region, including joint anti-submarine exercises on Friday by the navies of South Korea, the United States and Japan.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited the region this week, meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul on Thursday.

The rival Koreas are in a regional arms race that has seen a major increase of weapons and military spending.

Marking South Korea’s 74th Armed Forces Day, Yoon condemned what he called recent military provocations by the North and vowed to strengthen joint military drills with the United States.

“The government will further strengthen the Korea-U.S. joint exercises, will respond strongly to North Korean provocations and threats by showing them the ‘Alliance in Action’,” Yoon said in a televised speech.

He and military officials observed a major show of advanced weaponry, including multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, drones and F-35 fighter aircraft, among other systems.

The U.S. military demonstrated fighter jets and attack aircraft. Images of the event showed Yoon saluting from the back of a convertible car while driving by rows of tanks and other weapons.

He has said his country’s conventional weapons are key to deterring the North, and Seoul has also been seeking more major arms sales around the world.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said in a report in July the North had been launching short-range missiles that fly low and irregular trajectories, characteristics observed since May 2019 that are likely designed for higher war-fighting effectiveness.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions on the North for its ballistic missile and nuclear tests. Pyongyang rejects such moves as infringement of its sovereign right to self-defence and space exploration.

The North has completed preparations for a nuclear test, a window which could open between China’s Communist Party Congress this month and U.S. mid-term elections in November, South Korean lawmakers said on Wednesday.

MISSILE RACE

Saturday’s two short-range missiles were launched from Sunan, north of the capital Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It estimated the range at 350 km (220 miles) at 30 km (20 miles) altitude and speed of Mach 6.

Japan’s coast guard reported at least two suspected ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang. The missiles flew 400 km and 350 km, reaching an altitude of 50 km, said Toshiro Ino, state minister of defence.

Tokyo has lodged a protest against the North through diplomatic channels, Ino said, adding the missiles possibly flew an “irregular trajectory” designed to evade missile defence.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it is aware of the ballistic missile launches and has assessed they do not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory or to its allies.

North Korea fired missiles before and after Harris’ visit to South Korea, extending a record pace in weapons testing this year as it increases the threat of a credible nuclear power that can strike the United States and its allies.

Pyongyang also conducted the first intercontinental ballistic missile test since 2017.

Analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build operational weapons, as well as to take advantage of a world distracted by the Ukraine conflict and other crises to “normalise” its tests.

“Despite North Korea’s internal weaknesses and international isolation, it is rapidly modernising weapons and taking advantage of a world divided by U.S.-China rivalry and Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international politics at Ewha University in Seoul.

“The Kim regime is also playing hardball with the Yoon administration while South Korean politics are hobbled by infighting,” he said.

Havana protests flare for second night as govt scrambles to turn on lights

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Commodities 6 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 06:47PM ET)

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Havana protests flare for second night as govt scrambles to turn on lights© Reuters. People shout slogans in a protest during a blackout in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Havana, Cuba, September 30, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

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By Dave Sherwood and Alexandre Meneghini

HAVANA (Reuters) -Crews restored power to more neighborhoods across Havana on Saturday after a second day of protests over ongoing blackouts in Cuba’s capital, including some of the largest demonstrations since widespread anti-government rallies in July 2021.

At least one of the protests Friday night in the western seaside borough of Playa swelled in size to several hundred people who chanted “turn on the lights,” as well as slogans disparaging President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

At one point, the group began to chant for freedom, or “libertad,” in Spanish, as protesters marched through a dark, densely populated district that has been without electricity since Hurricane Ian slammed into the island on Tuesday.

Reports on social media showed small protests had flared again at scattered locations across Havana and just outside the city on Saturday afternoon. The demonstrations, which remained largely peaceful, appeared confined to those places where power had not yet been restored.

The majority of city residents, whose electricity supply had returned, did not protest on Friday or Saturday.

“Little by little the power is coming back, and good thing,” said Jorge Mario Gonzalez, a 57-year-old postal worker in Havana. He said the power came back on at his home on Friday.

“The government is making a big effort but can’t satisfy everyone. We have so many problems.”

Ian knocked out power to the whole country of 11 million people when it plowed through western Cuba earlier this week. By early Saturday, officials said electricity had been restored to more than 82% of customers in Havana, a city of more than 2 million, but those still in the dark had grown increasingly anxious.

“It’s like being in hell,” said Carlos Felipe Garcia, who marched shirtless at the protest in Playa on Friday night, covered in sweat. “That’s why we´re out on the street, and we’ll keep coming out.”

Officials said on Friday they hoped to have the lights back on across most of Havana by the end of the weekend – and appeared on track by Saturday afternoon. City officials have said the protests unleashed by the outages have hindered recovery efforts and have warned against blocking roads and vandalism.

As the demonstration in Playa late on Friday gained steam, it was met by several truckloads of security forces in black berets, who blockaded the main boulevard, preventing those marching from advancing, according to a Reuters witness.

Later an equally large group of hundreds of government supporters chanting “I am Fidel” – a reference to the late former leader Fidel Castro – followed behind the protesters on an adjacent street. The men, many wearing pants and T-shirts, were armed with sticks, baseball bats and scrapwood.

No clashes or arrests were observed.

Street protests in communist-run Cuba are very rare. On July 11, 2021, anti-government rallies rocked the island, the largest such demonstrations since Castro’s 1959 revolution.

INTERNET FAILS

Internet communications in Havana appeared to collapse again for the second night on Friday as protests flared, making mobile calls and messaging impossible until around 4 a.m. on Saturday.

“Internet has been cut again in Cuba, at around the same time as yesterday,” said Alp Toker, director of internet watchdog NetBlocks. “The timings provide another indication that the shutdowns are implemented as a measure to suppress coverage of the protests.”

The Cuban government did not respond to a request for comment on the situation.

As the protesters marched in Playa, the electricity suddenly came back on in some housing and apartment blocks.

“When people protest, yes, they put on the lights,” said one local resident, Andres Mora, pointing to a recently lit building. “But our children’s food has already rotted and they don’t have anything to eat.”

The prolonged blackouts in Cuba are particularly upsetting for many residents because obtaining basic goods – including food, fuel and medicine – often means hours waiting in line under the hot Caribbean sun.

Outside Havana, vast swaths of the island were still in the dark as work crews continued to repair electric poles and lines and remove trees from roads.

The Wall Street Journal reported late on Friday that Cuba’s government has made a rare request for emergency assistance following the hurricane from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

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Russia’s replacement for Lego stores: World of Cubes

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Stock Markets 7 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 01:05PM ET)

Russia's replacement for Lego stores: World of Cubes© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pieces of Lego bricks are seen in a shop in Paris, France, April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer//File Photo

By Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The multi-coloured toys piling up on the Russian shop shelves may look familiar. But the bright red and yellow Lego store logos have gone, replaced by Mir Kubikov, or World of Cubes.

Russian retail group IRG has unveiled plans for 65 new shops across 20 cities, to replace ones it used to run for Danish toy maker Lego, which exited the country in the wake of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is not the first firm to toy with new names since a string of well-known Western brands shut down their Russian operations over the conflict.

Former McDonald’s Corp (NYSE:) restaurants reopened as Vkusno & tochka, or ‘Tasty and that’s it’, in June, while the new owners of Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ:) coffee shops opted for Stars Coffee.

Lego said in July it had terminated its contract with its franchisee IRG which owned and operated 81 stores on its behalf.

IRG (Inventive Retail Group) said on Thursday its new stores would sell official Lego bricks “purchased through parallel imports and other suppliers” alongside other toys.

“The new chain will appear in place of certified Lego shops,” IRG said in a statement. “Lego will remain on the list of brands.”

Lego said it was no longer affiliated with IRG, had not shipped products to Russia since March 2022 and does not support or facilitate sales of Lego products into Russia.

“We have taken steps to increase visibility and control over any potential resale activity by our existing customers outside of Russia, including adding additional clauses to retailers’ contracts,” Lego said in a statement on Friday.

Western brands have left in their droves since Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, in what Moscow calls its “special military operation”. Many of the businesses have voiced opposition to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and others have pointed to severe supply chain disruption.

World of Cubes shops have already started opening, and the full chain would be up and running by the end of October, IRG said.

Separately, the Kommersant daily on Friday reported that Dmitry Azarov, previously the majority owner of UK cosmetics retailer Lush’s Russian stores, had launched another company, ‘List’, and started applying for trademarks under the ‘Relish’ brand for goods including cosmetics, soaps and lotions.

Lush said it was aware and wished Azarov well with his new venture.

“Lush is not involved,” a spokesperson said.

Azarov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Elon Musk to provide Florida with Starlink satellites in response to Hurricane Ian

Stock Markets 10 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 07:02PM ET)

Elon Musk to provide Florida with Starlink satellites in response to Hurricane Ian© Reuters. Destroyed homes and businesses on Pine Island, Florida are seen from a U.S. Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter as U.S. National Guard Bureau Chief General Daniel Hokanson tours the area by air after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction on Pin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk agreed to provide the company’s satellite internet service, Starlink, for help in response to Hurricane Ian in areas of Southwest Florida still without connectivity.

“We are working with Elon Musk and Starlink satellite. They are positioning those Starlink satellites to provide good coverage in Southwest Florida and other affected areas,” DeSantis told reporters on Saturday. “We are expecting 120 additional large Starlink units to deploy to Southwest Florida.”

(The story has been refiled to restore Musk’s surname in first paragraph.)

After Hurricane Ian’s deadly wrath, Florida, Carolinas begin recovery

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World 2 hours ago (Oct 01, 2022 08:56PM ET)

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After Hurricane Ian's deadly wrath, Florida, Carolinas begin recovery© Reuters. Stranded shrimp boats are seen in a marina after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, U.S., September 30, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello

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By Brad Brooks and Jonathan Drake

FORT MYERS, Fla./CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) -Florida and the Carolinas, staggered by one of the fiercest storms in U.S. history, faced a massive recovery on Saturday as remnants of Hurricane Ian threatened further flooding along the Eastern Seaboard while leaving tens of billions of dollars in damage in its wake.

The number of confirmed fatalities from Ian rose to at least 50, most in Lee County, Florida, which bore the brunt of the storm when it slammed ashore on the state’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds of 150 miles (240 km) per hour.

The death toll was expected to climb as floodwaters receded and search teams reached more areas initially cut off by the storm.

As of Friday, some 10,000 people were reported unaccounted for in Florida, according to the state’s emergency management director, who added that many of those were likely safe in shelters or otherwise unreachable because of power and phone outages.

As the full extent of devastation came into clearer focus three days after Ian made U.S. landfall, officials said some of the heaviest damage appeared to have been inflicted by raging wind-driven ocean surf that rushed into seaside communities and washed buildings away.

New satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed beach cottages and a motel building that lined the shores of Florida’s Sanibel Island had been demolished by Ian’s storm surge. Although most homes appeared to still be standing, roof damage to all was evident.

Surveys from the ground showed that the barrier island, a popular tourist getaway that was home to some 6,000 residents, was left utterly ravaged, from its infrastructure to its famously idyllic aesthetic character.

“It’s all just completely gone,” Sanibel’s city manager, Dana Souza, said. “Our electric system is pretty much destroyed, our sewer system has been damaged badly and our public water supply is under assessment.”

The island’s link to the mainland was severed by breaches to Sanibel’s causeway bridge, further complicating recovery efforts, Souza said.

After waning to a tropical storm by the end of its march across Florida to the Atlantic, Ian regained hurricane strength and pummeled coastal South Carolina on Friday, sweeping ashore near Georgetown, north of the historic port city of Charleston, with sustained winds reaching 85 mph (140 kph).

Numerous roads were flooded and blocked by fallen trees while a number of piers were damaged in that area.

MORE FLOODING FORECAST

Weakening again as it churned north and inland, Ian had been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone by Saturday afternoon. But remnants of the storm were still expected to bring treacherous conditions to parts of the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Flood watches were posted for southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia on Saturday, even as major to record flooding was forecast to continue in central Florida.

About 1.2 million homes and businesses were without power in Florida as of 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) on Saturday, with some 300,000 outages scattered across the Carolinas and Virginia.

Florida accounted for the overwhelming majority of confirmed storm-related deaths, with 35 tallied by the Lee County sheriff’s office and 11 others reported by state officials in four neighboring counties.

North Carolina authorities said at least four more people had perished there. No deaths were reported in South Carolina.

Damage from high water, unleashed by storm surge along the coast and torrential rains further inland, was extensive.

“We suffered more flood damage than wind damage,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday. “That is going to require a lot of flood claims being filed.”

Insurers braced for between $28 billion and $47 billion in claims from what could amount to the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to U.S. property data and analytics company CoreLogic.

President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for Florida, saying Ian was “likely to rank among the worst (storms) … in the nation’s history.” On Saturday, he declared an emergency in North Carolina.

On Sanibel, crews were just making their way to the hard-hit east end of that island on Saturday, “so our situation is that we’re still in the search-and-rescue mode,” the city manager, Souza said.

City officials were aware of nearly 300 households of people who failed to leave the island as the storm approached and whose whereabouts and well-being were now being checked, he said.

Ricky Anderson, 57, a cashier who moved recently from Illinois to the nearby Fort Myers area, said he “lost everything in the hurricane,” as did many of his neighbors.

“Where are all those people supposed to go that have no home anymore?” Anderson said.

Robert Hartman, 81, a 50-year-resident of Fort Myers, said government help was crucial to get residents back on their feet.

“We have no power, no phone service, nothing. We would just like a little help to get my home back in shape because I have nowhere to go,” he added.

Read more:

Maps-Hurricane Ian batters the Gulf Coast

Drone video shows boats washed ashore in Hurricane Ian’s wake

A Florida town rebuilt after one hurricane endures another

Hurricane hunter says Ian’s eyewall flight was ‘worst I’ve ever been on’

How hurricanes cause dangerous, destructive storm surges

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