FORT MYERS, Florida (AP) – Authorities in Florida confirmed several deaths late Saturday bringing the state’s death toll from Hurricane Ian to at least 47, bringing the global death toll to at least 54.
A death list compiled by state medical examiners and made public reported a large number of drowning deaths, with victims submerged or floating in storm water.
Ian hit Florida’s southwest Gulf coast as a major Category 4 hurricane earlier in the week before crossing the peninsula over the Atlantic and then hitting the southeastern US coast as a Category 1 hurricane. Four more storm-related deaths were reported in North Carolina and three in Cuba.
This is an urgent news update. The previous story for the Associated Press follows below.
FORT MYERS, Florida (AFP) – Dozens of Florida residents left their submerged homes scattered by boats and air on Saturday as rescuers continued to search for survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.while authorities in South Carolina and North Carolina began taking stock of their losses.
The death toll from the storm, one of the strongest winds to hit the United States ever, has risen to nearly thirty, with deaths reported from Cuba.Florida and North Carolina. The storm weakened on Saturday as it swept into the mid-Atlantic, but not before washing away bridges and piers, smashing huge boats into buildings on the shore and slashing rooftops, causing hundreds of thousands of outages.
At least 35 people are confirmed dead, including 28 in Florida Most of them drowned but others from Ian’s tragic effects. Authorities said an elderly couple died after their oxygen machines stopped when the electricity went out.
As of Saturday, more than 1,000 people have been rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwest coast alone, Daniel Hokanson, a four-star general and chief of the National Guard, told The Associated Press as he flew to Florida.
Chris Schnapp was at the Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers on Saturday, waiting to see if her 83-year-old mother-in-law had been evacuated from Sanibel Island.. A pontoon boat had just arrived with a load of passengers from the island – with bags and animals in Qatar – but Schnapp’s mother-in-law was not among them.
“I’ve stayed on the island. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law own two businesses there. They were evacuated. She didn’t want to go,” Schnapp said. Now, she said, she wasn’t sure if her mother-in-law was still on the island or if she had been moved to a shelter somewhere. .
On Pine Island, the largest isolated island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, homes were reduced to shrapnel and boats littered the roads as a volunteer rescue group went door-to-door on Saturday, asking isolated residents if they wanted to evacuate. The population described the state of terror Being trapped in their homes as the water continues to rise.
“The water just kept pounding the house and we watched the boats and the houses – we watched everything go by,” said Joe Conforte, while fighting back tears. He said that had it not been for his wife, who suggested they stand on a table to avoid rising water, he would not have done so: “I’m starting to lose my sensitivity, because when the water is on your door and splashes on the door and you see how fast it’s moving, there’s no way you can survive it.”
The flooding of rivers has at times posed a major challenge to rescue efforts and the delivery of supplies. The Myakka River washed up along Interstate 75, shutting down a busy highway for a while on Saturday. This is a major corridor connecting Tampa to the north with the hard-hit Southwest Florida region that straddles both sides of Port Charlotte and Fort Myers. Later Saturday, state officials said, water levels had receded enough to fully reopen I-75.
Tyler Fleming, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Tampa, said that while rising waters in Florida’s southwestern rivers have either peaked or are near their peak, levels are not expected to drop significantly for several days.
Elsewhere, South Carolina’s Pawleys Island – a beach community roughly 75 miles (115 kilometers) off the coast from Charleston – was among the worst hit. Power remained cut off to at least half of the island on Saturday.
Eddie Wilder, who came to Pawleys Island more than six decades ago, said Friday’s storm was “crazy.” He said waves as high as 25 feet (7.6 meters) washed away the local pier — a landmark.
“We watched it hit the pier and we saw the pier disappear,” said Wilder, whose home 30 feet (9 m) above the ocean remained dry indoors. “We watched it collapse and we watched it float with an American flag.”
Pawleys Pier was one of at least four piers along the South Carolina coast destroyed by high winds and rain. Meanwhile, the inland waterway was littered with the remains of several boathouses whose poles had halted.
John Joseph, whose father built the family’s beige beach house in 1962, said Saturday he was happy to be back from Georgetown — which took a direct hit. He found his home on Pawleys Island completely intact.
“Thank God these walls are still here,” he said of the sand that has washed under his house, and we feel blessed that this is the worst thing. “What happened in Florida — oh my God, God bless us. If we had a Class 4, I wouldn’t be here.”
In North Carolina, the storm killed four people and brought down most trees and power lines, knocking out power to more than 280,000 people statewide at one point on Saturday morning, officials said. Outages fell sharply hours later after crews worked to restore power.
Two of the deaths in North Carolina were from storm-related accidents, while officials said a man also drowned when his truck plunged into a swamp, and another man was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in a garage.
At Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers, charter boat captain Ryan Keane inspected damage to two boats Saturday. The storm surge pushed several boats and a pier ashore. He said the boat he owns is completely assembled so he can’t use it to help save people. Now, he said, it would be a long time before he hired fishing agents again.
“There’s a hole in the hull. It took water in the engines. It used up water in everything,” he said, adding, “You know boats are supposed to be in the water, not in parking lots.”
Kennard reported from Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Among the Associated Press’s contributors are Frida Frisaro in Miami; Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Gerald Herbert on Pine Island, Florida; Mike Besoli in Lehigh Acres, Florida; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; and Emmy Forletti in Minneapolis.
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