Hur­ri­cane Michael death toll hits 18, ex­pected to rise

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)

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

MEX­ICO BEACH(Florida): 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.

“We still haven’t got­ten into some of the hard­est-hit ar­eas,” said Brock Long, ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA) on Fri­day, not­ing that he ex­pects to see the num­ber of peo­ple killed climb.

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 neigh­bour­hoods in the Pan­han­dle, re­duc­ing homes to naked con­crete foun­da­tions or piles of wood and sid­ing.

FEMA crews have been us­ing bull­doz­ers and other heavy equip­ment to push a path through de­bris so res­cuers can sift the rub­ble us­ing spe­cially trained search dogs. More than 1,700 search and res­cue work­ers have been de­ployed, Gov­er­nor Rick Scott’s of­fice said in a state­ment, in­clud­ing seven swift-wa­ter res­cue teams and nearly 300 am­bu­lances.

Ex­cept for the emer­gency 911 sys­tem, au­thor­i­ties in Bay County, the epi­cen­tre of the disas­ter, were vir­tu­ally without tele­phone or in­ter­net ser­vice un­til late on Fri­day, mak­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­ter­nally and with the pub­lic dif­fi­cult.

Ruth Cor­ley, a spokes­woman for the Bay County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment, said lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tions were knocked off the air for two days, and au­thor­i­ties were re­ly­ing on the Gulf State Col­lege ra­dio sta­tion to trans­mit pub­lic ser­vice bul­letins. By Fri­day morn­ing the storm rem­nants were about 275 miles south­west of Nan­tucket, Mas­sachusetts, pack­ing max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 65 mph.

More than 940,000 homes and busi­nesses on the US East Coast were without power and it could be weeks be­fore power is re­stored to the most dam­aged parts of Florida.

- Reuters/Dronebase

INUNDATED: Ae­rial photo shows dam­aged and de­stroyed homes af­ter Hur­ri­cane Michael smashed into Florida’s north­west coast in Mex­ico Beach, Florida, US, Oc­to­ber 12, 2018.

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