Hurricane Michael death toll rises to 18 as search goes on in Florida
One of the most powerful storms in US history brings winds of up to 250 km/h
Debris and destruction in Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael went through the area on Wednesday. Photograph: Bronte Wittpenn/Tampa Bay Times via AP.
The death toll from Hurricane Michael rose to 18 people across four states on Friday as rescuers, hampered by power and phone outages, used cadaver dogs, drones and heavy equipment to search devastated communities in the Florida Panhandle.
“I’ve watched on television, thinking of what others have experienced, like in the Carolinas and Texas, ” Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told reporters.
“But it’s different when you walk down and see this, and your emotions run away. This is just a small unique coastal community.”
The number of fatalities is expected to rise further as rescuers go door to door and comb through the rubble in Mexico Beach and other Florida coastal communities such as Port St Joe and Panama City.
“We still haven’t gotten into some of the hardest-hit areas.”
FEMA crews have been using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to push a path through debris to allow rescuers to probe the rubble with specially trained search dogs.
Michael blew ashore near Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon as one of the most powerful storms in US history, with winds of up to 250 km/h. It pushed a wall of seawater inland, causing widespread flooding.
The storm, which in less than two days grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, tore apart entire neighbourhoods in the Panhandle, reducing homes to naked concrete foundations or piles of wood and siding.