Des­per­a­tion mounts in­side dis­as­ter zone

Death toll rises as res­cuers dig through rub­ble; food and wa­ter in short sup­ply.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Fausset, Alan Blin­der and Matthew Haag

SPRING­FIELD, FLA. — Hur­ri­cane Michael’s death toll rose to 16 Fri­day and was ex­pected to climb higher as emer­gency work­ers searched rub­ble and the storm’s grim con­se­quences stretched from the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle into Vir­ginia.

Res­cue teams were in the early stages of comb­ing a re­gion razed by a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane that flat­tened blocks, col­lapsed build­ings and left in­fra­struc­ture crip­pled. Some of the hard­est-hit com­mu­ni­ties have yet to re­port any fa­tal­i­ties, and although of­fi­cials said they hoped they would find sur­vivors, a re­signed gloom was set­ting in through­out the dis­as­ter zone.

Dr. Jay Radtke, the med­i­cal ex­am­iner for some of the ar­eas of

most con­cern, in­clud­ing Panama City and Mex­ico Beach, said he could not re­lease any in­for­ma­tion on the num­ber of dead in the six Pan­han- dle coun­ties un­der his ju­ris- dic­tion. “We are swamped,” he said. “It’s a dis­as­ter zone down here.”

Here’s the lat­est:

■ At a news con­fer­ence Fri­day af­ter­noon in Mari- anna, Flor­ida, Sher­iff Lou Roberts con­firmed three storm-re­lated deaths in Jack- son County.

■ Au­thor­i­ties in Vir­ginia said five peo­ple had died, in­clud­ing sev­eral who had drowned and a fire­fighter who was re­spond­ing to an emer­gency call. Two other peo­ple were feared dead.

■ Four deaths oc­curred in Gads­den County, west of Tal­la­has­see, ac­cord­ing to Lt. Anglie Hightower, a spokes­woman for the sher­iff ’s of­fice. The vic­tims in­cluded a man who died when a tree crashed down on his home in Greens­boro.

■ An 11-year-old girl, Sarah Rad­ney, was killed Wed­nes­day when a car­port was torn away and was sent hurtling into a mod­u­lar home in Sem- in­ole County, Ge­or­gia.

■ North Carolina of­fi­cials re­ported two more deaths Fri­day, rais­ing the death toll there to three. Au­thor­i­ties said a man and a woman had died in McDow­ell County when their car struck a large tree that had fallen in a road.

■ At least 1.5 mil­lion cus­tomers were with­out elec­tric­ity in states stretch­ing from Flor­ida to Vir­ginia.

■ Many health in­stitu- tions in Flor­ida re­mained closed, in­clud­ing four hos- pitals, 13 nurs­ing homes and 14 as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion dis­trib­uted at a se­nior fed­eral lead­er­ship brief­ing Fri­day and shared with The New York Times. The fig­ures were slightly higher than those dis­trib­uted by Flor­ida’s Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Sev­eral dial­y­sis cen­ters were also closed.

■ Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Fri­day that he would visit Flor­ida and Geor- gia next week. “Peo­ple have no idea how hard Hur­ri­cane Michael has hit the great state of Ge­or­gia,” he said on Twit­ter.

■ It has been a tough few weeks for the Caroli­nas. Af­ter thrash­ing the Flor­ida Pan- han­dle, Michael slogged through states still reel­ing from the ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Florence last month.

■ Much of the coast of the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle, in­clud­ing Mex­ico Beach and Panama City, was dev­as­tated. The area is dot­ted with small, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, some of them among the poor­est in the state.

Most of the peo­ple who died in Vir­ginia were drown­ing vic­tims; an­other was a fire­fighter who had re­sponded to a car crash on an in­ter­state high­way.

The fire­fighter, Lt. Brad Clack of the Hanover County Fire-EMS De­part­ment, was one of four fire­fight­ers struck by their fire en­gine when a trac­tor-trailer slammed into it, push­ing it into them, around 9 p.m. Thurs­day out­side Rich­mond, ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia State Po­lice.

Clack was at the scene of a two-ve­hi­cle crash on In­ter­state 295 dur­ing the storm. The fire en­gine’s lights were on, and the roads were slick when it was struck by the trac­tor-trailer on the side of the road, po­lice said. The driver of the trac­tor-trailer suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries, po­lice said, and charges were pend­ing.

The other three fire­fight­ers were taken to a hospi­tal in se­ri­ous con­di­tion.

One of the drown­ing vic­tims died in Char­lotte County, near t he North Carolina bor­der, af­ter a car was swept away on a bridge Thurs­day night, ac­cord­ing to state po­lice. Two other peo­ple were in the car, with one res­cued and the other miss­ing.

Ear­lier Thurs­day, James King Jr., 45, was swept away in his car in flood­wa­ters in Pitt­syl­va­nia County in south­ern Vir­ginia around 3:30 p.m. and could not be res­cued de­spite the ef­forts of sher­iff ’s deputies, state po­lice said. “The flood­wa­ters were too deep and too swift for them to main­tain con­tact with him,” po­lice said.

And two peo­ple were killed in Danville, Vir­ginia, on Thurs­day when their cars were over­run by flash flood­ing. William Lynn Tanksley, 53, died when the car he was in was swept away in fast-mov­ing wa­ter around 5 p.m., the Danville Po­lice De­part­ment said. A sec­ond per­son, whose iden­tity has not been made pub­lic, died around 10:20 p.m. when the per­son’s car got stuck in high wa­ter.

A mo­torist was also re­ported miss­ing in Not­toway County. The ve­hi­cle was re­cov­ered, but the per­son who was in the ve­hi­cle had not been found.

As the death toll rose in Vir­ginia, au­thor­i­ties ex­pected more deaths to be re­ported far­ther south along the hur­ri­cane’s path.

“I ex­pect the fa­tal­ity count to come up to­day. I ex­pect it to come up to­mor­row, as well, as we get through the de­bris,” Brock Long, chief of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, said in an in­ter­view with CNN on Fri­day. “Hope­fully it doesn’t rise dra­mat­i­cally, but it is a pos­si­bil­ity.”

Govern­ment of­fi­cials were rac­ing Fri­day to find a way to get food and wa­ter to the in­creas­ingly des­per­ate peo­ple of the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle.

“When is any­body com­ing to do some­thing?” said Trenisa Smith, 48, a school bus driver in Spring­field who had been giv­ing her­self in­sulin treat­ments in the back of her car.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the storm, it was be­com­ing clear that many res­i­dents were not only left with­out a hab­it­able home, but also with­out ad­e­quate stock­piles of food.

Some res­i­dents were do­ing what they could to find food or wa­ter, in­clud­ing rum­mag­ing through stores that had been dam­aged. One man said he had been driv­ing to the nearby bay and fill­ing buck­ets with wa­ter to flush the toi­lets.

Carl Jones, 43, said that he had seen no hint of govern­ment re­sponse as of Thurs­day night — “only thing is the po­lice came and said you’ve got to be in­side” at night­fall, he said.

EMILY KASK / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ro­mark Davis, 7, walks through the wreck­age of the mo­bile home park where he lives in Panama City, Fla., on Fri­day. Hur­ri­cane Michael’s death toll rose to 16 on Fri­day and was ex­pected to climb higher as emer­gency work­ers searched rub­ble left by the Cat­e­gory 4 storm.

MICHAEL SNY­DER / NORTH­WEST FLOR­IDA DAILY NEWS VIA AP

An en­tire neigh­bor­hood in Mex­ico Beach, Fla., was wiped out by Hur­ri­cane Michael. The dev­as­ta­tion came into fo­cus Thurs­day with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces.

JOE RAE­DLE / GETTY IM­AGES

State Road 98 is torn up at Mex­ico Beach in Flor­ida’s Pan­han­dle af­ter Hur­ri­cane Michael slammed through the area, shat­ter­ing scores of homes.

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