Hurricane Michael: death toll rises to 11 as rescuers search for survivors

Katie Ramirez
October 13, 2018

Nearly 1.1m homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia early on Friday, according to utility companies.

"I've watched on television, thinking of what others have experienced, like in the Carolinas and Texas", Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told reporters referring to hurricanes this year and last. "Do you think it would have floated away?" she asked.

Nearby Panama City Beach experienced similar damage along with other communities along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

Rescue personnel search amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

The U.S. Army said more than 2,000 Florida National Guard soldiers were helping with recovery efforts.

Three deaths were reported in Marianna, in Jackson County, Florida, Sheriff Lou Roberts told a news conference on Friday afternoon.

Officials in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, which is still reeling from the recent onslaught of Hurricane Florence, said previously Michael had killed at least six people.

Zahralban spoke as his team - which included a dog - was winding down its two-day search of Mexico Beach, the town of about 1,000 people that was almost wiped off the map when Michael blew ashore there on Wednesday with devastating 155 miles per hour winds.

With so many residents unable to reach first-responders to request well-being checks or medical assistance or report missing people, Florida's State Emergency Response Team has set up a web page where people can request assistance. The rest of them, you know, there's a lot of them lost lives, I've heard. Rescuers from Fema used dogs, drones and Global Positioning System in the search.

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.

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Michael, a Category-4 storm at the time, smashed into Florida's northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday with screeching 250kph winds, pushing a wall of seawater inland.

President Trump described the hurricane as "unbelievably destructive and powerful", contrasting it with last year's Hurricane Harvey, which caused in 106 USA deaths and massive flooding as it drifted for a week between Texas and Louisiana.

In Mexico Beach, a seafront town where the hurricane made landfall, houses had been razed by a storm surge, boats had been tossed into yards and the streets were littered with trees and power lines.

Mark Bowen, chief of emergency services in Bay County, told "Good Morning America" on Friday that "a tremendous number of people" are "unaccounted for". "That is just one more hazard that we didn't need", said Panama City resident Brooke Esposito.

"Here's the thing guys, we've been kind of quarantined from and really cut off from any information, so you're getting a raw look with us. We're doing what we can with the minimal media that we have".

Buildings in Panama City were crushed, tall pine trees were sent flying and a steeple was knocked off a church. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Colin Hunt/Handout via REUTERS. "But in this moment, it's just too hard to do that", said Foster as she choked back tears.

The 11-year-old girl and at least 10 others have been killed since Michael made landfall Wednesday and headed to the northeast, leaving a path of destruction, officials said. "That we don't rebuild to the same standards".

Michael weakened to a post-tropical cyclone late Thursday and is expected to exit Virginia out into the Atlantic Ocean Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Over 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power. "Not all of that commercialism", said Dottie Sinclair, 57, a nurse, adding a Subway fast-food restaurant was the only commercial chain.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long is urging people to learn from the past and build a culture of preparedness.

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