Res­cuers search rub­ble for hur­ri­cane sur­vivors

Cyprus Today - - WORLD -

RES­CUERS were pick­ing through the rub­ble of rav­aged beach com­mu­ni­ties search­ing for sur­vivors yes­ter­day 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 north-west coast near the small town of Mex­ico Beach on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon with top sus­tained winds of 250 kilo­me­tres per hour, push­ing a wall of sea­wa­ter in­land and caus­ing wide­spread flood­ing.

The storm tore en­tire neigh­bour­hoods apart, re­duc­ing homes and busi­nesses to piles of wood, dam­ag­ing roads and leav­ing scenes of dev­as­ta­tion that re­sem­bled the af­ter­math of a car­pet-bomb­ing 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 (Fema) 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.

Much of down­town Port St Joe, 19 kilo­me­tres 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.

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

With a low baro­met­ric pres­sure recorded at 919 mil­libars, a mea­sure of a hur­ri­cane’s force, Michael was the third strong­est storm on record to hit the con­ti­nen­tal United States, be­hind only Hur­ri­cane Camille on the Mis­sis­sippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the Labour Day hur­ri­cane of 1935 in the Florida Keys.

It was top­pling trees and bring­ing life-threat­en­ing flash flood­ing to ar­eas of Ge­or­gia and Vir­ginia, which are still re­cov­er­ing from Hur­ri­cane Flo­rence, as it marched north-east.

At least seven peo­ple were killed by fall­ing trees and other hur­ri­cane-re­lated in­ci­dents in Florida, Ge­or­gia and North Carolina, ac­cord­ing to state of­fi­cials.

Emer­gency ser­vices car­ried out dozens of res­cues of peo­ple caught in swiftly mov­ing flood­wa­ters in North Carolina.

Al­most 1.2 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses were with­out power from Florida to Vir­ginia on Thurs­day be­cause of the storm.

The num­ber of peo­ple in emer­gency shel­ters swelled to 20,000 across five states, said Brad Kieser­man of the Amer­i­can Red Cross.

Brad Rippey, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist for the US Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment, said Michael se­verely dam­aged cot­ton, tim­ber, pe­can and peanut crops, caus­ing es­ti­mated li­a­bil­i­ties as high as $1.9 bil­lion and af­fect­ing up to 1.5 mil­lion hectares.

Michael also dis­rupted en­ergy op­er­a­tions in the US Gulf of Mex­ico as it ap­proached land, cut­ting crude oil pro­duc­tion by more than 40 per cent and nat­u­ral gas out­put by nearly a third as off­shore plat­forms were evac­u­ated.

A res­i­dent looks for items to sal­vage from where her friend’s home once stood

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