Hurricane Ian’s death toll rises in devastated neighborhoods as crews go door-to-door searching for survivors in Florida



CNN

After Hurricane Ian In devastated communities in Florida, rescue teams going door-to-door in search of survivors are reporting high death tolls, and residents struggling with the losses face a long, daunting recovery.

As of Monday, at least 101 people have been killed by hurricanes in Florida — 54 of them in Lee County alone. Ian also claimed the lives of four people in North Carolina.

Ian hit Florida last Wednesday as a furious Category 4 hurricane. Days later, hundreds of thousands of residents of island communities cut off from the mainland are without power and Floridians are homeless.

In some cases, government officials were also involved in rescue operations among those who lost their homes.

Fort Myers Beach City Councilman Bill Veach said his 90-year-old cottage is falling apart, with only a portion of a recent addition standing. Pieces of his house were found two blocks away, he said.

“When you walk around the ruins, it’s an apocalyptic scene,” Veech said of his surroundings.

Still, even in the rubble, there were moments of hope, he said.

“You see a friend you weren’t sure was alive or dead, and it makes you happy. Much more joy than loss of property,” Weach added.

Rescuers across the state are helping stranded people by boat and plane. As of Monday, more than 1,900 people had been rescued, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference.

Some residents who have been waiting anxiously to hear from their loved ones have received unimaginable news.

Elizabeth McGuire’s family said they last spoke to her on Wednesday and are having trouble reaching her. They learned Friday that the 49-year-old was found dead in his Cape Coral home.

Police told her family she died on the bed where she had her cell phone, and her son, Andrew Sedester, said it appeared she died instantly.

McGuire’s mother, Susan McGuire, said the damage from the storm was “enormous.”

Susan McGuire, who moved to Florida from Maryland a few years ago, said, “A hundred blizzards won’t cost you what one hurricane will cost you.” “My husband’s business was crippled, my daughter died … the blizzard took nothing from me.”

A house is left in ruins Monday after Hurricane Ian hit the beach in Fort Myers, Florida.

Sanibel Fire Chief William Briscoe said every home on Sanibel Island showed damage after Ian wiped out part of the road connecting them after it was cut off from the Florida peninsula.

“There are a lot of unlivable places. “There are places beyond their base that are very dangerous,” Briscoe said. “The eggs are running around and there are snakes everywhere.”

Crews have evacuated 1,000 people from Sanibal since Hurricane Ian tore through the island, according to Briscoe.

A similar scenario plays out on Pine Island, the largest barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. A few days ago, it was a quiet fishing and kayaking destination known for its small-town atmosphere. Now it is a scene of carnage, with cracked roads and destroyed houses.

Ian destroyed the only bridge to Pine Island, which is only accessible by boat or plane.

Supplies are now being dropped to the island by helicopter as some residents choose to stay, officials said.

“Food is delivered to Pine Island. Now, is it enough to sustain them in the long run? I can’t say yet, none of us can,” Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said Monday.

Emergency physician Dr. Ben Abo denied that the storm would hit the area, saying teams were meeting with residents who were said to be running out of supplies.

“I see a lot of pessimism, but I also see hope,” Abo said. “Urban search and rescue, fire rescue, I see giving people hope that we’re going to get this. But we have to do it in stages.

DeSantis said Monday that construction of a temporary bridge to Pine Island is underway and the goal is to have it completed by the end of the week.

“It’s not necessarily a bridge where you want to go 45 miles an hour, but at least you have a connection to the mainland,” the governor said.

The National Guard will fly power crews to Sanibel and Pine Islands to begin restoring power.

In Fort Myers Beach, power may not be restored for 30 days due to damage to electrical infrastructure, according to Desjarlais.

He painted a grim picture of the area, describing the environmental hazards caused by leaking diesel and fuel and the thousands of wrecked boats and ships submerged in shallow water and sunk in the mangroves.

Florida Army National Guard members Tim Tuitt (L) and John Davis assist with evacuations Monday in the wake of Hurricane Ian off the coast of Fort Myers.

After Ian hit Florida’s west coast, a Naples man nearly went uphill. Half a mile of floodwater to save his 85-year-old mother.

Johnny Lauder, a former police officer, told CNN he took action after his mother, who uses a wheelchair, called in a panic and said water was pouring into her home and reaching her chest.

He arrived home to find her neck-deep in water, but happy to see her son.

“The water was up to the windows and I heard her screaming inside,” Lauder said. “At that moment it was both a fear and a sigh of relief — a fear that she might get hurt, a sigh of knowing she still had air in her lungs.”

Lauder was able to bring his mother to safety as the flood began to recede.

It’s unclear how many people remain missing after the storm. Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said officials are working to compile a list of missing persons.

Tonya Werner is among those waiting to hear news about a loved one. It’s been three days since she heard from her father, David Park, who was admitted to the Shorepoint ICU in Port Charlotte just days before Hurricane Ian made landfall.

“He was on a ventilator until Friday, and that was the last contact,” Tonya told CNN. “No phones, nothing. I don’t even know if he’s alive. Because we’re stuck, I’ve reached out every way I can think of, begging for information. And there’s no way to reach him.

Tonya lives nearly an hour away from Port Charlotte, and Arcadia has been cut off from flooding in the area, which she said has prevented anyone from getting across town.

Hospitals in Florida have been experiencing “significant pressure” on capacity since Ian hit, said Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association.

Emergency departments have been damaged, many hospital staff have been displaced or lost their vehicles in the storm, and staff have suffered as facilities lost reliable access to water.

Hospitals typically do not evacuate patients who have nowhere to go, whether their homes were damaged in the storm or their nursing homes were evacuated and temporarily closed.

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