Hurricane Michael kills 17 in US, death toll expected to rise
Rescuers are picking their way through devastated areas of north-west Florida, in the United States (US), amid fears that the death toll from Hurricane Michael will rise.
The hurricane, one of the most powerful in US history, struck on Wednesday with winds of up to 155 miles per hour.
According to officials, at least 17 deaths have been confirmed in a swath of destruction stretching across the states of Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
US authorities say at least eight people are confirmed dead in Florida, five in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia.
Officials in Florida say rescue workers are still to search the worst-affected areas in the coastal community of Mexico Beach, which was “flattened” by the storm.
It’s reported that hundreds of people are still unaccounted for in Mexico Beach and other areas, but authorities say this may reflect an inability to communicate with relatives because mobile phone coverage is out in many areas.
Brock Long, an administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the number of deaths was expected to rise as rescue teams combed through Mexico Beach, Port St Joe and Panama City.
Residents of Mexico Beach had been under a mandatory evacuation order, but it is believed at least 285 people among a population of 1,000 had stayed behind to ride out the storm.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said as he visited Mexico Beach on Friday and "It was like a bomb went off. It's like a war zone."