Hurricane Michael toll mounts, rescuers search for victims
SEARCH and rescue teams faced a second day of sifting through the ruined landscape left by Hurricane Michael on Friday as the death toll rose to 11.
After devastating coastal communities in the Florida Panhandle, the remnants of the storm, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, killed five people as it passed through the U.S. state of Virginia.
“Virginia storm updates as of 7.00 am [1100 GMT Friday]. 5 confirmed Michael-related fatalities. 520,000 without power. 1,200 closed roads. 5 suspected tornadoes,” the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said on Twitter.
The storm was over the open Atlantic, east of Norfolk, Virginia, early Friday after leveling entire communities on the US Gulf Coast.
In Mexico Beach, a seafront town where the hurricane made landfall, houses had been razed by a 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, you know, we don’t have much loss of life,” Scott told ABC.
The U.S. Army said more than 2,000 Florida National Guard soldiers were working on the recovery operations. Before the latest victims were reported, authorities had recorded four deaths in Florida’s Gadsden County, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina.
President Donald Trump pledged to help storm victims. “Our hearts are with the thousands who have sustained property damage, in many cases entirely wiped out,” Trump said. “We will not rest or waver until the job is done and the recovery is complete.”
Officials said more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida and 20,000 utility workers had been deployed to restore power. Michael made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, the most powerful to hit Florida’s northwestern Panhandle in more than a century.