Hur­ri­cane death toll hits 18

‘2,100 still miss­ing or stranded’

Arab Times - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

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.”

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