Hur­ri­cane Michael death toll hits 17

The Philippine Star - - WORLD NEWS -

MEX­ICO BEACH (AFP) — The death toll from Hur­ri­cane Michael has risen to at least 17 with fears it would con­tinue to climb 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,” 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.

Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency head Brock Long warned 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 got­ten 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 155-mile-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,” 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 and 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 Cat­e­gory 4,” he said. “So, I fol­lowed the manda­tory evac­u­a­tion order and left with my wife.

“Luck­ily we did not get a surge,” he added. “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.”

AFP

Res­i­dents re­cover pieces of fur­ni­ture from their dam­aged houses in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael in Mex­ico Beach, Florida on Fri­day.

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