‘Unimag­in­able de­struc­tion’ as Michael strikes

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD - (AP)

SEARCH-AND-RES­CUE teams fanned out across the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle to reach trapped peo­ple in Hur­ri­cane Michael’s wake yes­ter­day as day­light yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane on record to hit the con­ti­nen­tal US.

At least two deaths were blamed on Michael, and it wasn’t done yet: Al­though weak­ened into a trop­i­cal storm, it con­tin­ued to bring heavy rain and blus­tery winds to the south­east as it pushed in­land, soak­ing ar­eas still re­cov­er­ing from last month’s Hur­ri­cane Florence.

Un­der a per­fectly clear blue sky, Flor­ida fam­i­lies emerged ten­ta­tively from dark­ened shel­ters and ho­tels to an un­fa­mil­iar and per­ilous land­scape of shat­tered homes and shop­ping cen­ters, beep­ing se­cu­rity alarms, wail­ing sirens and hov­er­ing he­li­copters.

Over 900,000 homes and busi­nesses in Flor­ida, Alabama, Ge­or­gia and the Caroli­nas were with­out power.

“This morn­ing, Flor­ida’s Gulf Coast and Pan­han­dle and the Big Bend are wak­ing up to unimag­in­able de­struc­tion,” Gov­er­nor Rick Scott said.

“So many lives have been changed for­ever. So many fam­i­lies have lost ev­ery­thing. ... This hur­ri­cane was an ab­so­lute mon­ster.”

But the full ex­tent of the dam­age was only slowly be­com­ing clear, with some of the worst ar­eas dif­fi­cult to reach. A 130-kilo­me­ter stretch of In­ter­state 10, the main east-west route along the Pan­han­dle, was closed be­cause of de­bris.

One of the hard­est-hit spots was Mex­ico Beach, where Michael crashed ashore Wed­nes­day as a Cat­e­gory 4 mon­ster with 250 kilo­me­ter an hour winds. Video from a CNN he­li­copter yes­ter­day re­vealed widespread dev­as­ta­tion across the town of about 1,000 peo­ple.

Scott said the Na­tional Guard reached Mex­ico Beach and res­cued 20 peo­ple who sur­vived the di­rect hit.

The town was un­der a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der as the rapidly de­vel­op­ing storm closed in, but some peo­ple were de­ter­mined to ride it out.

A day later, the beach town re­mained dif­fi­cult to reach by land, with roads cov­ered by fallen trees, power lines and other de­bris.

The gov­er­nor pleaded with peo­ple in Flor­ida not to go home yet.

Mean­while, the Coast Guard said it res­cued at least 27 peo­ple, mostly from homes dam­aged along the Flor­ida coast­line, and searched for more vic­tims. Among those brought to safety were nine peo­ple res­cued by he­li­copter from a bath­room of their Panama City home af­ter their roof col­lapsed, Petty Of­fi­cer 3rd Class Ron­ald Hodges said.

Flor­ida of­fi­cials also said they were mov­ing pa­tients from dam­aged health care fa­cil­i­ties.

The storm was ex­pected to move across North Carolina and Vir­ginia and push into the At­lantic Ocean by late yes­ter­day or early to­day.

Along the 320-kilo­me­ter Pan­han­dle, Michael washed away white-sand beaches, ham­mered mil­i­tary bases and de­stroyed coastal com­mu­ni­ties, strip­ping trees to stalks, shred­ding roofs, top­pling trucks and push­ing boats into build­ings.

Au­thor­i­ties said a fall­ing tree killed a man out­side Tal­la­has­see, Flor­ida, and an 11-year-old girl in Ge­or­gia was killed when the winds picked up a car­port and dropped it on her home.

One of the car­port’s legs punc­tured the roof and hit her in the head.

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