Hurricane Michael death toll hits 17
MEXICO BEACH (UNITED STATES): The death toll from Hurricane Michael has risen to at least 17 with fears it would continue to climb Saturday as search-and-rescue teams scour the debris of the Florida town that bore the brunt of the monster storm.
“Mexico Beach is devastated,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said of the town where Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday. “It’s like a bomb went off,” Scott said as he toured the town of 1,000 people on the Gulf of Mexico.
Rescue teams were using sniffer dogs in Mexico Beach on Friday to search for victims who may be buried under the rubble in the debris-strewn community.
Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned that he expected the toll to rise.
“I hope we don’t see it climb dramatically but I have reasons to believe we still haven’t got into some of the hardest hit areas,” he said.
Dozens of structures in Mexico Beach — homes, shops and restaurants — were lifted off their foundations by storm surge and 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds and moved hundreds of feet inland or smashed to bits.
“Very few people live to tell what it’s like to experience storm surge,” Long said. “Storm surge causes the most amount of loss of life.”
State officials said Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders but some residents decided to stay and try to ride out the storm. “You hope that somehow at the last minute a bunch of people got up and left or went somewhere else,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio told CNN.
Debris and rubble are seen on a street after Hurricane Michael hit Mexico Beach, Florida.