To­tally blown away

250kmh hur­ri­cane de­stroys towns

Herald Sun - - WORLD -

SEARCH and res­cue teams are still comb­ing through de­stroyed com­mu­ni­ties on Florida’s Gulf Coast look­ing for sur­vivors of Hur­ri­cane Michael, a mon­ster storm that carved a swath of de­struc­tion and killed at least six peo­ple.

In Mex­ico Beach, a seafront town where the hur­ri­cane made land­fall, en­tire blocks of houses were razed, boats were tossed into yards and the streets were lit­tered with trees and power lines.

Gov­er­nor Rick Scott said the storm had caused “un­be­liev­able dev­as­ta­tion” in his state’s far north­west, an area known as the Pan­han­dle.

The pri­or­ity was still the hunt for sur­vivors among resi- dents who failed to heed or­ders to evac­u­ate be­fore the hur­ri­cane hit on Thurs­day morn­ing (Mel­bourne time).

“I’m very con­cerned about our cit­i­zens that didn’t evac­u­ate and I just hope that we don’t have much loss of life,” Mr Scott said.

More than 2000 Florida Na­tional Guard soldiers are help­ing in the re­cov­ery work.

There have been six con­firmed storm-re­lated deaths so far — four in Florida, one in Ge­or­gia and one in North Carolina.

Michael also caused dam­age in south­ern Alabama.

Last night, the storm had al­most run out of steam in the At­lantic af­ter cross­ing North Carolina and Vir­ginia, where dam­age was mi­nor.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pledged to help the Florida vic­tims.

“Our hearts are with the thou­sands who have sus­tained prop­erty dam­age, in many cases wiped out,” he said. “We will not rest or wa­ver un­til the re­cov­ery is com­plete.”

Florida of­fi­cials said more than 400,000 homes and busi­nesses were with­out elec­tric­ity in the state’s north. Nearly 20,000 util­ity work­ers are now restor­ing elec­tric­ity.

Michael came ashore as a cat­e­gory 4 storm with winds of 250kmh, the most pow­er­ful to hit the state since records be­gan in 1851. It was just shy of the high­est cat­e­gory 5, de­fined as a storm with sus­tained wind speeds of 252kmh and above.

Home af­ter home was torn from its foun­da­tions in Mex­ico Beach, a town of around 1000 peo­ple, leav­ing just bare con­crete slabs. Roads were im­pass­able and canals were choked with de­bris.

One res­i­dent told CNN: “When the wa­ter came in houses started float­ing. We had fur­ni­ture in our house that wasn’t even our fur­ni­ture. The surge had brought stuff in.

“There’s noth­ing left here any more. Our lives are gone here. All the stores, all the restau­rants, ev­ery­thing. It’s hard to grasp.”

A stor­age fa­cil­ity in nearby Panama City Beach, hous­ing hun­dreds of boats, was ripped apart by the strong winds with the roof shred­ding into strips of twisted metal.

Mar­garet De­cam­bre rode out the storm in her Panama City fourth-floor apart­ment with her hus­band and cats.

“The wind was so hard that it was push­ing wa­ter through win­dows and doors,” she said.

“We had half an inch of wa­ter on my floor and no way to stop it from com­ing in. It’s to­tal dev­as­ta­tion — no power, no wa­ter, no com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Pic­tures: AFP

Sur­vivors (top) and res­cue work­ers (below) at Mex­ico Beach on the north­west Florida coast in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael.

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