FORT MYERS, FLORIDA — The state’s rescue effort surpassed the 72-hour mark of “search, secure, and stabilize” according to Kevin Guthrie, the Florida Division of Emergency Management director. Still, close to 10,000 people are missing as search and rescue teams continue to go door to door throughout what is left of the hardest hit neighborhoods in southwest Florida.
This morning, Governor DeSantis spoke about the rescue efforts as he continued his tour to assess storm damage in Lee and Charlotte Counties. “There have been a number of people that have been identified and brought off the island safely. And those efforts are ongoing,” he said of rescue efforts on Sanibel Island.
More than 700,000 rescues have taken place as of Friday morning. “There’s been really a Herculean effort,” DeSantis said as teams continued to assess the damage and rescue residents in need.
As officials continue to evaluate the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the top priority is to save lives. Eleven total Urban Search and Rescue teams have been deployed to Southwest Florida, including six Florida teams, two Virginia teams, and teams from Ohio, Indiana, and Texas.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Guthrie spoke about an attempted rescue in Lee County, highlighting the human tragedies caused by Hurricane Ian: “We do not know exactly how many were in the house. Let me paint the picture for you. The water was up over the rooftop, but we had a Coast Guard rescue swimmer swim down into it, and he could identify what appeared to be human remains,” Guthrie said, adding that the Department knows of several similar situations.
EMERGENCY OPERATIONS UNDERWAY
Currently, Lee county is without power or water. The area experienced 10-foot-high storm surges when Hurricane Ian made landfall, according to Sheriff Carmine Marceno. As of today, county hospitals still do not have water service.
The Florida National Guard engineering resources provided route clearance and began executing security missions, including curfew enforcement in Sarasota, checkpoint and access control, and site security in Lee County.
Six active fuel depots have been placed throughout Southwest Florida to ensure first responders have the fuel they need to conduct search and rescue operations. Crews began staging for additional fuel depots today.
To support hospitals in Lee County without potable water, Florida is shuttling 1.2 million gallons of water on 20 trucks from Lakeland to Fort Myers. Additionally, 295 truckloads of food and water are on the way to the affected areas. More than 3.5 million meals and over 1.8 million gallons of bottled water have arrived in impacted areas.
Overnight, the state monitored several healthcare facilities on generator power, two healthcare facilities are in the process of evacuating patients. 400 additional nurses are moving into southwest Florida to assist in patient care.
As of this morning, Charlotte County reported 12 deaths, Collier County 8, and 1 in Polk County. In Lee County, it’s still too soon to say how many may have died “until the water recedes,” said Guthrie, noting that only one death has been confirmed as a direct result of the storm.
DeSantis did not want to speculate on the number of deaths during his press conference. But when he surveyed the damage Thursday in Fort Myers, it was “indescribable,” he said. “There were cars floating in the middle of the water. Some of the homes were total losses.”
Florida’s Department of Emergency Management has activated the State Assistance Information Line (SAIL) to provide an additional resource for Floridians to receive up-to-date information regarding Hurricane Ian. Residents and visitors can call this toll-free hotline at 1-800-342-3557.
If you are missing a loved one or friend, visit missing.fl.gov, the state website for reporting missing persons related to Hurricane Ian. To report a missing person, fill out the form on behalf of “Someone Else.” You can also fill out the form on your own behalf if you need rescue and communications are limited.