Hurricane death toll hits 18
‘2,100 still missing or stranded’
MEXICO BEACH, Fla, Oct 13, (RTRS): The death toll was expected to rise this weekend in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael as hundreds remained unaccounted for along the Florida Panhandle where decimated communities remained cutoff and in the dark.
As of early on Saturday, state officials were reporting that at least 18 have been killed in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
Rescue teams, hampered by power and telephone outages, were going door-to-door and using cadaver dogs, drones and heavy equipment to hunt for people in the rubble in Mexico Beach and other Florida coastal communities, such as Port St Joe and Panama City.
The Houston-based volunteer search-and-rescue network CrowdSource Rescue said its teams were trying to find about 2,100 people either reported missing or stranded and in need of help in Florida, co-founder Matthew Marchetti said.
Social media websites were crowded with messages from those trying to reach missing families in Florida’s Bay and Gulf Counties.
Marchetti said his volunteer search teams, consisting mostly of off-duty police officers and firefighters, had rescued or accounted for 345 others previously reported to CrowdSource Rescue.
Michael crashed ashore near Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon as one of the most powerful storms in US history, with winds of up to 155 mph (250 kph). It pushed a wall of seawater inland, causing widespread flooding.
The tropical storm, which grew in less than two days into a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, tore apart entire neighborhoods in the Panhandle, reducing homes to naked concrete foundations or piles of wood and siding.
Meanwhile, when Oscar-winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin turned to the internet to view a video warning about Hurricane Michael, she was quickly reminded that sign language interpreters are often edited out of broadcast clips and closed captioning seems to be non-existent online.
“There are 35 million deaf and hard of hearing people and it’s amazing today that there isn’t full access to them,” she told Reuters through an interpreter on Friday in a telephone interview.
Matlin drew attention to emergency communication glitches with disabled people earlier in the week, when she tweeted on Tuesday about the Weather Channel’s failure to include closed captioning in reports about the approaching storm.
“Dear @weatherchannel I wanted to share this video for the thousands of Deaf and Hard Of Hearing residents in the path of #HurricaneMichael but unfortunately, it’s NOT closed captioned. Access to info is VITAL; it’s a life or death matter. Thank you,” Matlin wrote.
The Weather Channel did not respond on Twitter and was not immediately available for comment.
Emergency notifications about troubles ranging from life-threatening tornadoes to New York City subway delays fail to reach Americans with hearing loss because of the failure to integrate closed captioning on public address systems, she noted.
“‘There’s not so many of you, so it’s not so important for us.’ That’s the way we feel,” Matlin said.
“Everything is migrating to the internet. It’s breaking news and you bring up the website video and it’s just the clips. There is no captioning.”