Search crews look for the dead and liv­ing in Florida

No signs, as of yet, of any need for tem­po­rary morgue

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - RUSS BYNUM AND BREN­DAN FAR­RING­TON

MEX­ICO BEACH, FLA. — Florida au­thor­i­ties fielded a bar­rage of calls about peo­ple miss­ing in hur­ri­cane Michael’s af­ter­math as search-and-res­cue teams Fri­day made their way through flat­tened neigh­bour­hoods, look­ing for vic­tims dead or alive. The death toll stood at 13 across the South.

The num­ber of dead was ex­pected to rise, but au­thor­i­ties scrapped plans to set up a tem­po­rary morgue, in­di­cat­ing they had yet to see signs of mass ca­su­al­ties from the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane to hit the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. in nearly 50 years.

Res­i­dents, mean­while, be­gan to come to grips with the de­struc­tion and face up to the un­cer­tainty that lies ahead.

“I didn’t rec­og­nize noth­ing. Ev­ery­thing’s gone. I didn’t even know our road was our road,” said Tif­fany Marie Plush­nik, 25, an evac­uee who re­turned to find her home in Sandy Creek too dam­aged to live in.

When she went back to the ho­tel where she took shel­ter from the storm, she found out she could no longer stay there ei­ther be­cause of mould.

“We’ve got to fig­ure some­thing out. We’re start­ing from scratch, all of us,” Plush­nik said.

Across the rav­aged re­gion, of­fi­cials set up dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres to hand out food and wa­ter to vic­tims. Some sup­plies were brought in by trucks, while oth­ers had to be de­liv­ered by he­li­copter be­cause roads had yet to be cleared of de­bris.

Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced plans to visit Florida and hard­hit Ge­or­gia early next but didn’t say what day he would ar­rive. “We are with you!” he tweeted. Search teams con­tin­ued to pick their way through the ru­ins of Mex­ico Beach, the ground-zero town of about 1,000 peo­ple that was nearly wiped off the map when Michael blew ashore there on Wednesday with dev­as­tat­ing 249 km/h winds. Blocks and blocks of homes were de­mol­ished.

State of­fi­cials said that by one count, 285 peo­ple in Mex­ico Beach de­fied manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders and stayed be­hind. Whether any of them got out at some point was un­clear.

Emer­gency of­fi­cials said they have re­ceived thou­sands of calls ask­ing about miss­ing peo­ple. But with cell­phone ser­vice out across vast swaths of the Florida Pan­han­dle, of­fi­cials said it is pos­si­ble that some of those un­ac­counted for are safe and just haven’t been able to contact friends or fam­ily to let them know.

DAVID GOLD­MAN THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dam­aged boats sit among de­bris in a marina in the af­ter­math of hur­ri­cane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Fri­day.

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