The death toll is expected to rise over this weekend in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for along the Panhandle of Florida and communities are still cutoff and in the dark.
By Saturday, state officials were reporting that at least 18 have been killed in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. But teams of rescuers have been hindered by power and telephone outages and were going door-to-door and using cadaver dogs, drones and heavy equipment to hunt for people.
“We still haven’t gotten into some of the hardest-hit areas,” said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Friday. He said that he expects to see the number of people killed rise.
The Houston-based volunteer search-and-rescue network CrowdSource Rescue said that their teams were trying to find about 2,100 people either reported missing or stranded and in need of help in Florida, according to co-founder Matthew Marchetti.
Hurricane Michael hit Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon as one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history. There were winds of up to 155 mph and it pushed a wall of seawater inland, causing widespread flooding.
FEMA crews have been using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to push a path through debris so rescuers can sift the rubble using specially trained search dogs.
Governor Rick Scott’s office said in a statement that more than 1,700 search and rescue workers have been deployed, including seven swift-water rescue teams and nearly 300 ambulances.
By Friday morning the storm remnants were about 275 miles southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts, packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph).
More than 940,000 homes and businesses on the U.S. East Coast were without power and it could be weeks before power is restored to the most damaged parts of Florida.
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