Numerous Dead After Hurricane Ian

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    Fort MYERS, Fla. (AP) A slew of Florida people left their flood-stricken and splintered homes on boats and in the air on Saturday while rescuers continued searching to find survivors in the aftermath of hurricane Ian and while officials from South Carolina and North Carolina began to evaluate the damage.

    The death toll of the storm, which was one of the strongest hurricanes in terms of the speed at which it hit the U.S., grew to more than four dozen with 47 confirmed deaths in Florida as well as four deaths within North Carolina and three in Cuba. The storm diminished on Saturday as it moved through the mid-Atlantic region but not before it swept away bridges and piers. It also pushed massive vessels into shore structures and ripped roofs off houses and left millions without electricity.

    The majority of the deaths that were confirmed by authorities in Florida resulted from drowning in stormy waters and others resulted from Ian's tragic aftermath. A couple of older people suffered fatal injuries when their power went out and their oxygen generators were shut off, according to authorities.

    On Saturday, over 1,000 people were evacuated from floodplains along the coast of Florida's southwestern region, and Daniel Hokanson, a four-star general who is the head of the National Guard, told The Associated Press as he flew to Florida.

    In the evening, White House announced that President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden would travel to Florida on Wednesday. There was no other information about Biden's trip released immediately.

    Chris Schnapp was at the Port Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers on Saturday morning, waiting to determine whether her mother-in-law, who is 83, was removed from Sanibel Island. A pontoon boat arrived with the passengers of the island, complete with animals and suitcases in the boat. However, Schnapp’s mother in law was not on the boat.

    “She resided on the island. My brother-in-law and sister-in-in-law run two businesses on the island. They left. She was reluctant to leave,” Schnapp said. She said that, at this point, she was not sure whether her mother-in-law was there or had been relocated to a shelter in someplace.

    Then, on Pine Island, the largest barrier island in Florida's Gulf Coast, houses were broken into shards and boats littered roads when a group of rescuers went door-to-door asking residents to evacuate. The residents described the horror that they felt trapped inside their homes while the water was rising.

    “The water just kept pounding the house and we watched, boats, houses — we watched everything just go flying by,” Joe Conforti recalled as he struggled to hold back tears. He added that if it weren't for his wife who advised them to put their feet on tables to keep away from the rising water it wouldn't have been worth the decision. “I started to lose sensibility, because when the water's at your door and it's splashing on the door and you're seeing how fast it's moving, there's no way you're going to survive that.”

    The flooding of the Myakka River was a significant problem for the efforts to rescue and supply delivery. It was during this time that the Myakka River washed over a section along Interstate 75, forcing a road closure that was jammed for a period of time. The main corridor connects Tampa with the North and the heavily impacted southwest Florida region, which runs between Port Charlotte and Fort Myers. Then, on Saturday, officials from the state declared that the water levels had receded to the point that I-75 could be reopened fully.

    As the rising waters in the southwest rivers of Florida have reached or are close to reaching their peak, they aren't likely to fall significantly in the next few days, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming in Tampa.

    In South Carolina, Pawleys Island — a beach community located about 75 miles (115 kilometers) across the ocean from Charleston, was one of the areas hardest hit. Power was knocked out to about half the island on Saturday.

    Eddie Wilder, who has been visiting Pawleys Island for over six decades, claimed the storm of Friday has been “insane.” He said waves up to twenty-five feet (7.6 meters) washed away the town's Pier, a landmark of the island.

    “We watched it hit the pier and saw the pier disappear,” said Wilder. His home, which was thirty feet (9 meters) above the ocean, was clean inside. “We watched it crumble and watched it float by with an American flag.”

    The Pawleys Pier was one of at most four along the coast of South Carolina damaged by the force of wind and heavy rain. In the meantime, the waterway that runs through the Intracoastal was littered with the remains of numerous boat houses ripped from their piles.

    John Joseph, whose father constructed the family's home on the beach in 1962, told the newspaper that he was delighted to have returned from Georgetown — where he suffered a direct hit. He discovered the Pawleys Island home intact.

    “Thank God these walls are still here, and we feel very blessed that this is the worst thing,” he said about the sandy sand that had fallen around his house. “What occurred in Florida is awe-inspiring. God gave us a blessing. If we'd been in Category 4, I wouldn't have been here.”

    When storm struck North Carolina, the storm killed four people and damaged power lines and trees which left over 280,000 people across the state in power outages at one point early on Saturday morning, officials stated. The power outages decreased quickly hours later, as crews were able to restore electricity.

    There were two deaths in North Carolina; deaths were from car crashes caused by the storm, while authorities said that one man drowned after his vehicle was swept away. Another died from carbon monoxide poisoning that occurred from an engine in the garage.

    Fort Myers Captain of a charter boat, Ryan Kane, inspected damage to two vessels on Saturday. The surge of the storm pushed numerous boats as well as a dock onto the shore. The boat he owned was destroyed which meant he could not make use of it to assist in the rescue of people. He said that, at this point, it's going to be an extended time before he could be able to charter fishing clients once again.

    “There's an opening inside the vessel. It was flooded by the motors. It took water everywhere,” he said, adding: “You know boats are supposed to be in water, not in parking areas.”

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