Hur­ri­cane Michael death toll hits 17

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Mex­ico Beach, US - The death toll from Hur­ri­cane Michael has risen to at least 17 with fears it would con­tinue to climb on 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. “It’s like a war zone.”

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.

US me­dia later re­ported one death in the town - an el­derly man found alone, ac­cord­ing to Mayor Al Cathey. Of­fi­cials said his body was found hun­dreds of yards from his home.

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 Mex- ico Beach - homes, shops and restau­rants - were lifted off their foun­da­tions by storm surge and 250km per hour 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.

Bob Ten­brun­son, a Mex­ico Beach re­tiree, rode out the storm at his daugh­ter’s house in nearby Panama City and re­turned to sur­vey the dam­age to his home.

“I was go­ing to stay here un­til it turned to a Cat 4,” he said. “So I fol­lowed the manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der and left with my wife.”

“Luck­ily we did not get a surge,” Ten­brun­son said of his home. “I’ve got two trees on the roof and a cou­ple of holes on the roof. I have been try­ing to patch it up the best I can.”

The rest of Mex­ico Beach did not fare as well, and most beach- front homes, restau­rants and stores were oblit­er­ated by the storm.

“I spent my life sav­ings and re­tire­ment to stay here so I can’t sell it now,” Ten­brun­son said. “I just have to be hope­ful that (the town) will be re­built and fixed.”

Some res­i­dents ar­rived on Fri­day with vans or mov­ing trucks, hop­ing to re­cover as many per­sonal ef­fects from their splin­tered homes as they could.

Oth­ers came with noth­ing - as there was noth­ing left to save.

Eight deaths from the storm have been re­ported in Florida, five in Vir­ginia, one in Ge­or­gia and three in North Carolina.

The two deaths in North Carolina oc­curred in McDow­ell County when a car struck a tree that had fallen across a road, of­fi­cials said.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple re­main without elec­tric­ity in Florida, Ge­or­gia and Vir­ginia, and of­fi­cials say it could be weeks be­fore power is fully re­stored.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he planned to visit Florida and Ge­or­gia.

‘Peo­ple have no idea how hard Hur­ri­cane Michael has hit the great state of Ge­or­gia’, Trump tweeted. ‘I will be vis­it­ing both Florida and Ge­or­gia early next week. We are work­ing very hard on ev­ery area and ev­ery state that was hit - and we are with you!’

Michael was the most in­tense hur­ri­cane to strike the Florida Pan­han­dle since record keep­ing be­gan in 1851.

Many of the dam­aged Florida build­ings were not built to with­stand a storm above the strength of a Cat­e­gory 3 hur­ri­cane on the five-level Saf­fir-Simp­son scale.


The dam­age caused by Hur­ri­cane Michael near Panama City, Florida, on Thurs­day


A woman re­acts af­ter see­ing the dam­age caused by Hur­ri­cane Michael in Mex­ico Beach, Florida on Fri­day

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