Storm flat­tens Florida


The Citizen (Gauteng) - - WORLD - Port St Joe

US army, res­cuers bat­tle one of the worst mega-hurricanes with all they got.

Res­cuers searched for sur­vivors yes­ter­day af­ter one of the most pow­er­ful hurricanes in US his­tory slammed into the Florida Pan­han­dle and killed at least seven peo­ple.

Hur­ri­cane Michael struck Florida’s north­west coast near the small town of Mex­ico Beach on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon with top sus­tained winds of 250km/h, push­ing a wall of sea­wa­ter in­land and caus­ing wide­spread flood­ing.

At least seven peo­ple were killed in Florida, Ge­or­gia and North Carolina, ac­cord­ing to state of­fi­cials.

By early yes­ter­day morn­ing, the fast-mov­ing storm was about 105km north­east of Nor­folk, Vir­ginia, with top sus­tained winds of 95 km/h, the US Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre said. It was threat­en­ing to bring flash floods and wind dam­age to parts of North Carolina and the south­ern Mid-At­lantic still re­cov­er­ing from last month’s Hur­ri­cane Florence.

The storm, which came ashore as a Cat­e­gory 4 on the fivestep Saf­fir-Simp­son hur­ri­cane scale, tore en­tire neigh­bour­hoods apart, re­duc­ing homes and busi­nesses to piles of wood and sid­ing, dam­ag­ing roads and leav­ing scenes of dev­as­ta­tion that re­sem­bled the af­ter­math of car­pet bomb­ing.

US Army per­son­nel used heavy equip­ment to push a path through de­bris in Mex­ico Beach to al­low res­cuers through to search for trapped res­i­dents, sur­vivors or ca­su­al­ties, as Black­hawk he­li­copters cir­cled over­head. Res­cuers from the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (Fema) used dogs, drones and GPS in the search.

“We pre­pare for the worst and hope for the best. This is ob­vi­ously the worst,” said Stephanie Palmer, a Fema firefighter and res­cuer from Coral Springs, Florida. Many of the in­jured in Florida were taken to hard-hit Panama City 32km north­west of Mex­ico Beach.

Gulf Coast Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­tre treated some but the hos­pi­tal evac­u­ated 130 pa­tients as it faced chal­lenges run­ning on gen­er­a­tors af­ter the storm knocked out power, ripped off part of its roof and smashed win­dows, ac­cord­ing to a spokesper­son for the hos­pi­tal’s owner, HCA Health­care Inc.

Much of down­town Port St Joe, 19km east of Mex­ico Beach, was flooded af­ter Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, res­i­dents said.

“We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they’re on the other,” said mayor Bo Pat­ter­son, who watched trees fly by his win­dow as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach.

Pat­ter­son es­ti­mated 1 000 homes were com­pletely or par­tially de­stroyed in his town of 3 500 peo­ple.

In Apalachicola, about 48km east of where the storm made land­fall, a lit­tle less than half of the 2 200 peo­ple stayed and rode out the storm, res­i­dents said.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like this crazi­ness,” said Tamara’s Cafe owner Danny Itzkovitz, 54, as he was busy grilling burg­ers. “We’ve had storms be­fore – in ’05 we had four or five in a row. I didn’t even take the boards off my win­dow. But, holy smokes, this one kicked our butt.” – Reuters

Holy smokes, this hur­ri­cane kicked our butt

Pic­ture: Reuters

STILL THERE. An Amer­i­can flag lies amongst rub­ble left in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael in Mex­ico Beach, Florida.

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