16 deaths in vast trail of destruction after Hurricane Michael hits Florida

Remote video URL

SPRINGFIELD, Florida (NYTIMES)- Hurricane Michael's death toll rose to 16 on Friday (Oct 12) and was expected to climb higher as emergency workers searched rubble and the storm's grim consequences stretched from the Florida Panhandle into Virginia.

Rescue teams were in the early stages of combing a region razed by a Category 4 hurricane that flattened blocks, collapsed buildings and left infrastructure crippled.

Some of the hardest-hit communities have yet to report any fatalities, and although officials said they hoped they would find survivors, a resigned gloom was setting in throughout the disaster zone.

Dr Jay Radtke, the medical examiner for some of the areas of most concern, including Panama City and Mexico Beach, said he could not release any information on the number of dead in the six Panhandle counties under his jurisdiction.

"We are swamped," he said. "It's a disaster zone down here."

At a news conference on Friday afternoon in Marianna, Florida, Sheriff Lou Roberts confirmed three storm-related deaths in Jackson County.

The authorities in Virginia said five people had died, including several who had drowned and a firefighter who was responding to an emergency call. Two other people were feared dead. Four deaths occurred in Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee, according to Lieutenant Anglie Hightower, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Mexico Beach, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, on Oct 12, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

The victims included a man who died when a tree crashed down on his home in Greensboro.

An 11-year-old girl, Sarah Radney, was killed on Wednesday when a carport was torn away and sent hurtling into a modular home in Seminole County, Georgia.

North Carolina officials reported two more deaths on Friday, raising the death toll there to three. The authorities said a man and a woman had died in McDowell County when their car struck a large tree that had fallen on a road.

Debris caused by Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct 12, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

At least 1.5 million customers were without electricity in states stretching from Florida to Virginia. Many health institutions in Florida remained closed, including four hospitals, 13 nursing homes and 14 assisted living facilities, according to information distributed at a senior federal leadership briefing on Friday and shared with The New York Times.

The figures were slightly higher than those distributed by Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration. Several dialysis centers were also closed.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he would visit Florida and Georgia next week.

"People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia," he said on Twitter.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.