Hundreds are already feared dead as historic Hurricane Ian continues to wreck havoc in Florida, and the death toll is expected to increase, a sheriff in the state’s hardest-hit region announced early Thursday.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told “Good Morning America” that the mega-storm is “a life-changing event for all of us,” before adding “I definitely know the fatalities are (confirmed) in the hundreds.”
“This is a life-changing event for all of us,” Sheriff Marceno told GMA. ”
I don’t have confirmed numbers — I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds,” he added.
“So far, confirmed in the hundreds.”
Storm Is “Life-Changing Event For All Of Us,” Florida Sheriff Says Of Hurricane Ian
Marceno noted that conditions were still too dangerous for his department and other rescue crews to fully access the scope of the damage. He said there “are thousands of people waiting to be rescued.”
“There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued. And again, cannot get a true assessment until we’re actually on scene assessing each scene, and we can’t access people, that’s the problem,” he said.
The sheriff also warned that rescuers will “see things they’ve never seen before,” in reference to mass drownings, according to the New York Post.
Storm Still Too Strong For Rescue Crews To Fully Survey Damage, Mass Drownings Feared
Roger Desjarlai, the manager for Lee County, said late Wednesday that the hurricane was currently still “too strong” for officials to began rescue work, calling his community “decimated” by the storm.
“We are beginning to get a sense that our community has been, in some respects, decimated,” he said that night.
Over 80 percent of the region was still without power as of Thursday, according to County Commissioner Kevin Ruane, equaling more than 2.5 million people across the state, the Post reports.
“My heart goes out to them,” Ruane said of the trapped. “We will try to help them as soon as we can. We will get to them.”
President Joe Biden Declares Major Disaster In Florida As Record Flooding Devastates Sunshine State
President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Florida to enable federal aid throughout the state, including the hardest-hit areas like Lee County.
“Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional areas may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed,” the White House announced.
The White House’s emergency declaration came as Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday morning, however it could once again be upgrade to hurricane winds as “record flooding” paralyzes the region.
“Danger Of Life-Threatening Surge” To Persist Through Friday in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina
Wind speeds reached upwards of 155 mph, just two mph shy of making it a Category 5 storm, as images of flooding showed entire areas submerged in water emerged Thursday morning.
One hospital emergency room was shown with water running through it, as well as local TV station WINK, which was pictured with three feet of water covering the newsroom floor, according to the Post.
The “danger of life-threatening surge” will persist for the rest of Thursday and Friday in Florida as well as parts of Georgia and South Carolina, according to a 5 a.m. update by the National Hurricane Center.
The Shade Room reported yesterday that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned residents of the state that it was too late to safety evacuate if they hadn’t already done so.