Search for hurricane survivors continues
More than 2,000 soldiers helping with recovery operations amid devastation
Search and rescue teams combed through shattered US communities at the weekend looking for victims of Hurricane Michael, a Category Four monster storm which carved out a swathe of destruction in the Florida Panhandle, killing at least six in three states.
In Mexico Beach, a seafront town where the hurricane made landfall, houses had been razed by storm surge, boats had been tossed into yards and the streets were littered with trees and power lines.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said the storm had caused “unbelievable devastation” and the priority for the moment was looking for survivors among residents who failed to heed orders to evacuate.
“I’m very concerned about our citizens that didn’t evacuate and I just hope that we don’t have much loss of life,” Scott told ABC.
The US Army said more than 2,000 Florida National Guard soldiers were working on the recovery operations.
There have been six confirmed stormrelated deaths so far – four in Florida’s Gadsden County, one in Georgia, and one in North Carolina.
President Donald Trump pledged to help storm victims.
“We will not rest or waver until the job is done and the recovery is complete,” he said.
Florida officials said more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida and Governor Scott said nearly 20,000 utility workers had been deployed to restore power.
Michael made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a Category Four storm, the most powerful to hit Florida’s northwestern Panhandle in since record keeping began in 1851.
Michael has since been downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves through the Carolinas, which are still recovering from last month’s Hurricane Florence.
Mexico Beach, where the hurricane came ashore, suffered massive destruction from the 250km/h winds and several metres of storm surge.
Home after home was razed from its foundations in the town of around 1,000 people, leaving just bare concrete slabs. Others were missing roofs or walls. Roads were impassable and canals were choked with debris.
A Mexico Beach resident, Scott, who rode out the hurricane, described the impact of the storm surge to CNN.
“When the water came in, houses started floating. We had furniture in our house that wasn’t even our furniture. The surge had brought stuff in.
“Our lives are gone here. All the stores, all the restaurants, everything.
“It’s hard to grasp,” he said. “This was never in our imagination.”
Michael was close to moving away from the coast of Virginia out over the Atlantic and becoming a post-tropical low, the National Hurricane Centre said.
It warned of damaging winds and possible flash flooding in North Carolina and states just to the north and said the storm was still packing winds of 50mph.
Long said many Florida buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category Three hurricane.
As it came ashore, Michael was just shy of a Category Five hurricane.
When the water came in, houses started floating. We had furniture in our house that wasn’t even our furniture
DEVASTATION: People walk along a main street following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, US.