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Death toll from Hurricane Michael may rise, officials say

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Death toll from Hurricane Michael may rise, officials say

Search and rescue official fear death toll from Hurricane Michael may rise, as personnel are continuing to comb through the ruins of a small Florida Panhandle community.

Hurricane Michael left hundreds of thousands without power and without easy access to supplies.

So far, one body has been found in Mexico Beach, but authorities say there is little doubt the death toll will rise.

Crews with dogs went door-to-door Saturday in Mexico Beach, pushing aside debris to get inside badly damaged structures in a second wave of searches following what they described as an initial, “hasty” search of the area.

About 1,700 search and rescue personnel have checked 25,000 homes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.

Michael, which made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds (249 kph) and heavy storm surge, left an initial tally of lives lost across the South at 15, including the victim found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.

“Everything is time consuming,” said Capt. Ignatius Carroll, of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue task force.

“You don’t want to put a rush on a thorough rescue.”

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More roads became passable along the storm-ravaged coast as crews cleared downed trees and power lines, but traffic lights remained out and there were long lines at the few open gas stations.

About 4,000 members of Florida’s national guard have been called up to deal with the storm, including 500 added on Saturday.

Nearly 2,000 law-enforcement officials have been sent into the Panhandle.

Schools will stay closed indefinitely, a hospital halted operations and sent 200 patients to hospitals elsewhere in Florida and in Alabama, and more than 253,000 customers in the Panhandle remain without power.

“Everybody just needs to help each other right now,” Scott said after meeting with emergency responders in the Panama City area.

“You feel sorry for people,” Scott said. “They might have lost their house. They worry about their kids getting into school. You know, people don’t sit and have a whole bunch of extra money in the bank just waiting for a disaster.”

 

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