Res­cue teams scour chaos of Michael

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PORT ST. JOE, Flor­ida — Res­cuers picked through the rub­ble of rav­aged beach com­mu­ni­ties search­ing for sur­vivors on Fri­day af­ter Michael, one of the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes in US his­tory, slammed into the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle, killing at least seven peo­ple.

Michael struck Flor­ida’s north­west coast near the small town of Mex­ico Beach on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon with top sus­tained winds of 250 km/h, push­ing a wall of sea­wa­ter in­land and caus­ing wide­spread flood­ing.

The storm tore en­tire neigh­bor­hoods apart, re­duc­ing homes and busi­nesses to piles of wood, dam­ag­ing roads and leav­ing scenes of dev­as­ta­tion that re­sem­bled the af­ter­math of a car­pet­bomb­ing op­er­a­tion.

US Army per­son­nel used heavy equip­ment to push a path through de­bris in Mex­ico Beach to al­low res­cuers through to search for trapped res­i­dents, sur­vivors or ca­su­al­ties, as Black­hawk he­li­copters cir­cled over­head. Res­cuers from the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency used dogs, drones and GPS in the search.

“We pre­pare for the worst and hope for the best. This is ob­vi­ously the worst,” said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA fire­fighter and res­cuer from Coral Springs, Flor­ida.

Linda Mar­quardt, 67, rode out the storm with her hus­band at their home in Mex­ico Beach. When the house filled with storm surge wa­ter, they fled up­stairs.

“All of my fur­ni­ture was float­ing,” she said on Thurs­day. “A river just started com­ing down the road. It was aw­ful, and now there’s just noth­ing left.”

She said their home is full of mud. “We’ll have to bull­doze and start over.”

Much of down­town Port St. Joe, 20 kilo­me­ters east of Mex­ico Beach, was flooded af­ter Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, res­i­dents said.

“We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they’re on the other,” said Mayor Bo Pat­ter­son, who watched trees fly by his win­dow as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach.

Pat­ter­son es­ti­mated 1,000 homes were com­pletely or par­tially de­stroyed in his town of 3,500 peo­ple.

Jor­don Tood, 31, a char­ter boat cap­tain in Port St. Joe, said: “There were manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders, but only id­iots like us stuck around.”

“This was my sixth (hur­ri­cane), so I thought I was pre­pared,” he said.

In Apalachicola, about 50 km east of where the storm made land­fall, a lit­tle less than half of the 2,200 peo­ple stayed and rode out the storm, res­i­dents said.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like this crazi­ness,” said Tamara’s cafe owner Danny Itzkovitz, 54, as he was busy grilling burg­ers. “We’ve had storms be­fore — in 2005 we had four or five in a row. I didn’t even take the boards off my win­dow. But, holy smokes, this one kicked our butt.”

Michael had weak­ened overnight to a trop­i­cal storm.

JONATHAN BACHMAN / REUTERS IS­RAEL

Crews work on power lines dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Michael in Panama City Beach, Flor­ida, on Thurs­day.

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