The death toll from Hurricane Michael’s rampage across the south-eastern United States rose to at least 18 as rescue crews spread out across the devastated Florida Panhandle in search of more victims, reported The Guardian.
Fears were growing for an untold number of people who defied orders to evacuate before the monster storm slammed into the coast on Wednesday with 155mph winds and obliterated several waterfront communities. It fell two mph short of a category five hurricane.
There is no cellphone signal or power in many of the worst-affected areas and officials believe residents still unaccounted for could be trapped in wreckage in cut-off areas. Searchers found one person dead in the rubble of Mexico Beach, said Joseph Zahralban, Miami’s fire chief. Three additional deaths were reported in Marianna, in Jackson county, Florida, Sheriff Lou Roberts told a news conference on Friday afternoon.
“I expect the fatality count to climb today and tomorrow,” Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), told CNN. “Hopefully it doesn’t rise dramatically but it does remain a possibility.”
Five deaths were confirmed overnight in Virginia, adding to four reported from Florida and one each in North Carolina and Georgia, where an 11-year-old girl was killed when a carport ripped off by the wind crashed into her home. North Carolina authorities later said a car smashed into a tree felled by Hurricane Michael, killing two more people.
Donald Trump announced plans to visit two of the storm-ravaged states in a lunchtime tweet. “People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia. I will be visiting both Florida and Georgia early next week. We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit – we are with you!” the president wrote.
Florida emergency officials say they have rescued nearly 200 people and checked 25,000 structures since Hurricane Michael battered the state this week.