Wed, 06 Dec 2023

FORT MYERS, Florida: Areas within Lee County, including Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, Florida, were devastated by winds, rains and flood waters when Hurricane Ian struck this week.

According to data released by local officials, at least 79 people were killed across the state, with 42 dead in Florida's Lee County, on Florida's southwest coast.

On Sanibel Island, Mayor Holly Smith told ABC News that four residents had been killed.

"This is going to be a very long recovery process. But right now, the plan is getting everybody off that island and to safety. It is not habitable," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno posted a video showing ongoing flooding across the area.

A barrier island outside Fort Myers with fewer than 7,000 residents, Sanibel faced the brunt of Ian, which made landfall mid-week.

Additionally, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the Sanibel Causeway and the Matlacha Pass Bridge were destroyed and will both need to be rebuilt.

Mayor Smith of Sanibel told ABC News, "With the bridges destroyed, getting people off the island is a top priority," adding that first responders have been working on search and rescue operations, including checking a list of 300 residents.

According to Lee County Public Safety officials, Ian caused the most damage they had ever seen from a storm.

DeSantis said that newer building construction is more capable of
withstanding the storm, stating, "But I will tell you, those older homes that just are not as strong built, they got washed into the sea, some of them."

Lee County officials have asked for support after a water main break at the drinking water facility, he added.

Late in the week President Joe Biden said Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell spoke with Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass to discuss how the administration can support the county.

In a statement, the White House said the Biden administration would assist with search and rescue efforts, power restoration, helping to address challenges faced by local hospitals and problems presented by damage to roads and bridges.

Additionally, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said more than 500 people were rescued in Lee and Charlotte Counties.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue have been involved in search and rescue efforts, including on Sanibel and Captiva islands.

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