Searches in­ten­sify af­ter body found dur­ing cleanup in hur­ri­cane’s wake

Sunday Star - - OBITUARIES -

MEX­ICO BEACH, FLA. (AP) — Res­cuers in­ten­si­fied ef­forts Satur­day to find sur­vivors who might be trapped amid the ru­ins of a small Florida Pan­han­dle com­mu­nity nearly oblit­er­ated by Hur­ri­cane Michael, where one body has al­ready been re­cov­ered.

Crews with dogs went door-to-door in Mex­ico Beach and pushed aside de­bris to get in­side badly dam­aged struc­tures in a sec­ond wave of searches af­ter what they said was an ini­tial, “hasty” search of the area.

Au­thor­i­ties say there is lit­tle doubt the death toll will rise from the storm, which made land­fall Wed­nes­day as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane with 155 mph winds and heavy storm surge. The tally of lives lost across the South stood at 14, in­clud­ing the vic­tim found in the rub­ble of Mex­ico Beach, where about 1,000 peo­ple live.

“Ev­ery­thing is time con­sum­ing,” said Capt. Ig­natius Car­roll of the South Florida Ur­ban Search and Res­cue task force. “You don’t want to put a rush on a thor­ough res­cue.”

More roads were pass­able along the storm­rav­aged coast as crews cleared downed trees and power lines, but traf­fic lights re­mained out and lines at the few gas sta­tions that were open were five to six cars deep.

Schools will stay closed in­def­i­nitely, a hos­pi­tal halted op­er­a­tions and sent 200 pa­tients to hos­pi­tals else­where in Florida and in Alabama, and some res­i­dents were pack­ing up and get­ting as far away as they could.

Jeff and Ka­t­rina Pearsey, with a ru­ined ren­tal home in the Panama City area and no in­di­ca­tion of when they could again earn a liv­ing, said they were head­ing to Ban­gor, Maine, where Ka­t­rina once worked as a nurse. Sev­eral trees came down on their prop­erty, in­clud­ing one that smashed through the roof.

“We’re get­ting our stuff, and we’re go­ing,” said Jeff Pearsey, 48. “We’re prob­a­bly done with Panama City.”

Mi­ami Fire Chief Joseph Zahral­ban, the leader of a search-and-res­cue unit comb­ing through the wreck­age of Mex­ico Beach, said searchers were try­ing to de­ter­mine if the per­son found dead in the com­mu­nity had been alone or was part of a fam­ily.

Michael was one of the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes to ever make land­fall in the U.S. While most res­i­dents fled ahead of the storm’s ar­rival, oth­ers stayed to face the hur­ri­cane. Some barely es­caped with their lives as homes were pushed off their foun­da­tions and whole neigh­bor­hoods be­came sub­merged.

Hec­tor Mo­rales, a 57-year-old restau­rant cook, never even thought of evac­u­at­ing. His mo­bile home wasn’t on the beach, but when it sud­denly be­gan float­ing dur­ing the hur­ri­cane, he jumped out and swam to a fish­ing boat and clam­bered aboard.

“I lost ev­ery­thing,” Mo­rales made it.” said. “But I

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