Florida adds 47 dead after the passage of Hurricane Ian

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Rescuers evacuated shocked survivors from a large barrier island cut off by Hurricane Ian, as Florida’s death toll soared and hundreds of thousands of people remained without power for days. after the huge storm struck from the southwestern coast of the state and as far as the carolinas.

Florida, with nearly four dozen deaths, was hardest hit by the Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest to make landfall in the United States. Flooded streets and destroyed bridges to barrier islands left many people isolated, with limited cell phone signal and without basic resources such as water, electricity and internet.

Florida Gov. Ron De Santis said Saturday that billionaire Elon Musk would provide about 120 Starlink satellites to “help solve some of the communication problems.” Starlink, a satellite-based internet system created by Musk’s SpaceX company, will offer high-speed connections.

Florida utility companies were working to restore power. By Saturday night, nearly a million homes and businesses were still without power, up from 2.67 million a few days earlier.

At least 54 deaths have been confirmed, 47 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.

More than 1,000 people had been rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwest coast alone, Daniel Hokanson, a four-star general and head of the National Guard, told The Associated Press while traveling to Florida.

In Washington, the White House announced that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden would travel to Florida on Wednesday. The brief statement gave no further details about the visit.

The bridge to Pine Island, the largest barrier island off Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast, was destroyed by the storm, making it accessible only by air or boat. The Medic Corps volunteer group, which sends pilots, paramedics and doctors to areas affected by natural disasters, went door-to-door asking residents if they wanted to evacuate.

Some left by helicopter, and people described the horror of being trapped in their homes as the water continued to rise.

“The water would not stop hitting the house and we would see boats, houses, everything flying by,” Joe Conforti said through tears. He said that if it hadn’t been for his wife, who suggested that they climb on a table to avoid the water, he would not have survived. “When you have the water on the door and banging on the door and you see how fast it’s going, there’s no way to survive that.”

The flooding of rivers posed a huge challenge for rescue and supply delivery efforts. The Myakka River flooded a stretch of Interstate 75, which had to be temporarily closed Saturday.

While river levels in southwest Florida have peaked or are near their peak, levels are not expected to drop significantly for days, said Tyler Fleming, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa.

In North Carolina, the storm downed trees and power lines. Two of the four deaths in the state were due to vehicle crashes associated with the storm. The other two were a man who drowned when his truck fell into a swamp and another died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in a garage.


Kinnard reported from Pawleys Island, South Carolina; Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro in Miami; Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Gerald Herbert in Pine Island, Florida; Mike Pesoli in Lehigh Acres, Florida; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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