Rescuers scour debris for dead after Florida hurricane

12 October, 2018, 22:55 | Author: Patty Aguilar
  • Official Searchers find body in hurricane-stricken town

After Michael blew ashore Wednesday, the house lay in crumbled blocks, with the lower level filled with chunks of concrete and a lime green boat tossed near the stairs.

Forecasters said Michael was still a potent tropical storm Thursday evening, centered about 5 miles (8 kilometers) northwest of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and packing top sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic - and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.

ABC News' Ginger Zee said she saw an "entire home, a well-built home, rolling down the street".

Michael charged ashore on Wednesday near the small Florida Panhandle town of Mexico Beach as one of the most powerful storms in USA history, with top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour).

While Florence wrung itself out for days and brought ruinous rains, fast-moving Michael is likely to be more about wind and storm surge. That could change, as efforts to assess damage and look for casualties in the worst-hit communities have been hampered by downed utility lines and roads blocked by debris and fallen trees.

Tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 275 miles from the center and flash flooding is still a risk for parts of the Carolinas and the southern mid-Atlantic. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seawards.

Florida families are starting to emerge tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to an unfamiliar and perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters, the Associated Press reported midday Thursday.

Long said that crews were able to get to some hard-hit areas in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday night but that getting to Mexico Beach, Apalachicola and Panama City Beach was deeply challenging because of damaged bridges leading to those areas.

Hundreds of residents were rescued Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water. Patients were moved out of hurricane-damaged hospitals and nursing homes.


Florida Governor Rick Scott said the storm had caused "unbelievable devastation" and the priority for the moment was looking for survivors among residents who failed to heed orders to evacuate. The figure does not include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

In north Florida, Michael battered the shoreline with sideways rain, powerful gusts and crashing waves, swamping streets and docks, flattening trees, stripped away leaves, shredding awnings and peeling away shingles.

At least 11 deaths have been blamed on the storm.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when Michael's winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home, debris striking her in the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in, but emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.

Virginia authorities are providing more details about the death of a firefighter who was responding to a crash north of Richmond as Michael lashed the state.

Authorities in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina had previously linked at least six deaths to the storm, a toll officials have anxious will continue to rise as search-and-rescue efforts continue. The task ahead: finding and hopefully safely accounting for all those who stayed behind. Landlines and cellphones also were down to the complex, which has almost 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.

"But you know what...it's just stuff, it's just stuff", she told her husband as they walked through their home.

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