Hur­ri­cane Michael death toll hits 17

FLORIDA COAST ‘LIKE A WAR ZONE’, SAYS GOV­ER­NOR

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> MEX­ICO BEACH: The death toll from Hur­ri­cane Michael has risen to at least 17 with fears it would con­tinue to climb yes­ter­day 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,” Mr 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, 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 Mex­ico Beach — homes, shops and res­tau­rants — were lifted off their foun­da­tions by storm surge and 250 kilo­me­tre 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,” Mr 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 to 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,” Mr 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 beach­front 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,” Mr 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,” Mr 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!”

LOOK­ING EV­ERY­WHERE: Mem­bers of City Miami Fire Res­cue look for vic­tims in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael in Mex­ico Beach, Florida, on Fri­day.

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