MIAMI – The number of fatalities resulting from Hurricane Michael rose to at least six on Thursday after authorities had earlier reported four deaths, three of them in Florida, where the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.
The sheriff’s department in Gadsden County, in northwestern Florida, reported on Thursday that four people had died there as a result of the hurricane, which also caused substantial material damage in the area.
Among the dead is a man who died when a tree fell on his house in Greensboro, northwest of Tallahassee, a death that had been reported by the press on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office did not identify any of the victims.
The newly reported deaths come after an 11-year-old girl died in Georgia after being hit by a metallic object that blew across her home’s roof and a driver lost his life when a tree fell on his car on a North Carolina road, authorities in that state said on Thursday.
Currently, according to the latest bulletin from the national Hurricane Center, Michael is located 25 miles (40 km) south of Greensboro, North Carolina, is moving northeast at 23 mph (85 km/h) and is dumping huge amounts of rain along its path.
Local authorities on Thursday are focusing on finding and rescuing people affected by Michael’s catastrophic flooding and winds of up to 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour.
After speaking with Florida Gov. Rick Scott about the situation in the region, President Donald Trump declared the zone a disaster area with the aim of facilitating the provision of resources and assistance by the federal government.
In remarks to the press at the White House, Trump said that Michael had been “incredibly powerful” with wind gusts reaching almost 200 mph.
Mexico Beach, Florida, which was where the eye of the storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon, looks like a war zone with an unknown number of single families homes torn from their foundations and only a few houses surrounded by debris and ruins left standing.
Early Thursday morning, Scott said that the first priority is to mount a “massive” land, air and sea operation to find and rescue people affected by the storm, with thousands of police, National Guard troops and emergency personnel deployed for the task.
The two main hospitals in Panama City, Florida, stopped their healthcare activities and were forced to evacuate all their patients due to the damage suffered by the facilities, although the Sacred Heart medical center’s emergency room remained open despite the collapse of the roof on one of its buildings and having many windows broken and blown out.
The hurricane made landfall bringing intense rain and a storm surge of up to 14 feet in some places.
Power companies are working in the disaster zone to restore electricity to the roughly 800,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Alabama that were in Michael’s path, according to the Poweroutage.us Web site.