Death toll from Hur­ri­cane Michael rises to 12 amid search for sur­vivors

Iran Daily - - International -

Us­ing heavy equip­ment to push aside de­bris and with he­li­copters cir­cling over­head, res­cuers in the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle searched for trapped res­i­dents as of­fi­cials warned on Fri­day the death toll from Hur­ri­cane Michael was likely to rise.

At least 12 peo­ple were killed in Flor­ida, Ge­or­gia, North Carolina and Vir­ginia, of­fi­cials said, af­ter one of the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes in US his­tory slammed into Flor­ida’s north­west coast, Reuters re­ported.

“I ex­pect the fa­tal­ity count to climb to­day and to­mor­row,” Brock Long, head of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA), told CNN. “Hope­fully it doesn’t rise dra­mat­i­cally but it does re­main a pos­si­bil­ity.”

Michael came ashore on Wed­nes­day near the small Pan­han­dle town of Mex­ico Beach with top sus­tained winds of 155 miles per hour (250km per hour), push­ing a wall of sea­wa­ter in­land and caus­ing wide­spread flood­ing.

Long urged com­mu­ni­ties such as Mex­ico Beach, where many homes were oblit­er­ated by 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 me­ters) of storm surge, to re­build to with­stand fu­ture storms.

“It’s OK if you want to live on the coast or on top of a moun­tain that sees wild­fires or what­ever but you have to build to a higher stan­dard,” he said. “If we’re go­ing to re­build, do it right.”

Michael weak­ened as it charged over the south­east­ern United States, but still car­ried high winds and de­liv­ered drench­ing rains to Ge­or­gia, the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia, caus­ing flood­ing. By early Fri­day morn­ing it had moved into the At­lantic Ocean north­east of Nor­folk, Vir­ginia, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said.

Al­most 1.1 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses were with­out power from Flor­ida to Vir­ginia early on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to util­ity com­pa­nies.

The storm, which came ashore as a Cat­e­gory 4 on the five-step Saf­fir-simp­son hur­ri­cane scale, tore en­tire neigh­bor­hoods in the Pan­han­dle apart, re­duc­ing homes and busi­nesses to piles of wood and sid­ing, dam­ag­ing roads and leav­ing scenes of dev­as­ta­tion.

Res­cuers from FEMA used dogs, drones and GPS in the search for sur­vivors.

“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.

Many of the in­jured in Flor­ida were taken to hard-hit Panama City, 20 miles (32 km) north­west of Mex­ico Beach.

As Michael pushed north­east, emer­gency ser­vices car­ried out dozens of res­cues of peo­ple caught in swiftly mov­ing flood­wa­ters in North Carolina on Thurs­day.

The num­ber of peo­ple in emer­gency shel­ters was ex­pected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Fri­day, 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 3.7 mil­lion crop acres (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 per­cent and nat­u­ral gas out­put by nearly a third as off­shore plat­forms were evac­u­ated.

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 La­bor Day hur­ri­cane of 1935 in the Flor­ida Keys.

REUTERS

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