Hurricane Michael Aftermath | Searchers find another body
MEXICO BEACH (AP):
Search-and-rescue teams yesterday found a body in the Florida Panhandle town nearly wiped out by Hurricane Michael, and authorities said that there is little doubt the death toll will rise further.
Traffic lights remained out yesterday, with police directing traffic at intersections, and lines at the few gas stations that were open were five to six cars deep.
The tally of lives lost across the South stood at 14, including the victim found in the rubble of Mexico Beach. Authorities said that there is little doubt that number will rise further.
Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue unit that entered the devastated community, said: "We have one confirmed deceased and are working to determine if there are others."
Zahralban said that searchers, who were using a trained dog, were trying to determine if that person had been alone or was part of a family.
Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the US, and the Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach, which housed about 1,000 people, was in its bullseye.
While most residents fled ahead of the storm's arrival, others stayed to face the hurricane. Some barely escaped with their lives as homes were pushed off their foundations and whole neighbourhoods became submerged.
State officials said that by one count, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind.
Emergency officials said that they had completed an initial 'hasty search' of the devastation, looking for the living or the dead, and had begun more careful inspections of thousands of ruined buildings.
They have received thousands of calls asking about missing people, but with cell phone service out across a wide area, they found it impossible to know who among those unaccounted for were safe but were just unable to dial out to friends or family.
Meanwhile, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said that he expects the death toll will rise.
"We still haven't got into the hardest-hit areas," he said, adding with frustration: "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country, we seem to not learn the lesson."