Hur­ri­cane death toll on rise

Res­cue crews scour­ing hard­est-hit com­mu­ni­ties

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

MEX­ICO BEACH: The death toll from Hur­ri­cane Michael has risen to 18 across four US states as res­cuers ham­pered by com­mu­ni­ca­tions fail­ures searched the hard­est-hit towns in the Florida Pan­han­dle.

The toll was ex­pected to rise as res­cuers go door to door and comb through the rub­ble in beach­front com­mu­ni­ties such as Mex­ico Beach, Port St Joe and Panama City, which bore the brunt of the storm’s wrath.

Those killed were in Florida, Vir­ginia, North Carolina and Ge­or­gia and hun­dreds of peo­ple re­main miss­ing.

Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency crews have been us­ing earth­movers to push a path through de­bris to al­low res­cuers and snif­fer dogs to search through the rub­ble.

Michael blew ashore near Mex­ico Beach on Wednesday as one of the most pow­er­ful storms in US his­tory, with winds of up 250km/h. It pushed sea­wa­ter in­land, caus­ing wide­spread flood­ing.

The storm, which in less than two days grew from a trop­i­cal one to a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, re­duced homes to naked con­crete foun­da­tions or piles of wood and sid­ing. Ex­cept for the emer­gency-911 sys­tem, au­thor­i­ties in Bay County, the epi­cen­tre of the hur­ri­cane disas­ter, were vir­tu­ally with­out tele­phone or in­ter­net un­til yes­ter­day, mak­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the pub­lic dif­fi­cult.

Search teams have been go­ing door-to-door in Mex­ico Beach and other hard-hit ar­eas, look­ing for peo­ple ei­ther trapped or killed.

Bay County of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously said 56 peo­ple had cho­sen to stay in their homes in Mex­ico Beach and that teams were try­ing to ac­count for them.

So­cial me­dia was filled with mes­sages from peo­ple try­ing to reach miss­ing fam­ily in Florida’s Bay and Gulf Coun­ties.

By yes­ter­day, the rem­nants of Michael had moved north­east into the At­lantic Ocean but still could bring up to 130mm of rain in New Eng­land, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre said.

About 1.5 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses were with­out power yes­ter­day, from Florida to Vir­ginia, and it could be weeks be­fore power is re­stored.

The num­ber of peo­ple in emer­gency shel­ters was ex­pected to swell to 20,000.

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