Florida families still seek people missing in the hurricane


Numerous houses in Mexico Beach had no roofs.

Just up the road, tears ran down Lanie Eden's face as she and husband Ron Eden sifted through sand in search of items they left before evacuating from the small beach house they've rented each October for years.

But the severity of the damage worsened as Trump approached the town of Mexico Beach. "They just snatched my purse out of my hands and ran".

In Bay County, home to Mexico Beach and Panama City, 54 percent of customers remained without electricity. Inland, in Calhoun County, 98 percent of the customers didn't have power Wednesday morning, according to the emergency management website.

In the meantime, in many areas devastated by the hurricane, law enforcement officials are battling looting of homes and businesses.

Water supply was restored to some residents in Panama City on Monday but Bay County officials said it was not yet safe to drink.

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In some areas of the county, spray-painted signs warn "Looters will be shot".

Often the looters have been armed, Stanford said. They say the hurricane potentially impacted 3.6 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of upland forest and 1 million acres (more than 400,000 hectares) of field crops in Florida. "It's a stressful time for everyone in Bay County".

Hurricane Michael killed at least 30 people in four states, as the storm made its way through the southeastern United States last week, new local estimates showed Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management's count of 16 dead was twice the number previously tallied by The Associated Press, and included 12 deaths in Bay County, where the hurricane slammed ashore with 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds and a catastrophic storm surge last Wednesday.

In Mexico Beach, what had been a town of about 1,200, residents don't expect power or anything else anytime soon.

Florida officials say the storm is responsible for at least 16 deaths in the state.

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He tweeted after arriving in Florida that he is "also thinking about our GREAT Alabama farmers and our many friends in North and SC today".

The president also surveyed a street in the badly damaged community of Lynn Haven, where he spoke to a man named Michael Rollins who rode out the storm at home because he wanted to protect his pets.

Five days after the hurricane slammed into the Florida Panhandle, people are struggling to locate friends and loved ones who haven't been heard from - though how many residents are missing seems to be anyone's guess. "It's miraculous if all we have is two fatalities", said Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey.

Almost 137,000 Florida customers remain without power in an 11-county region that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border, according to information compiled by state emergency management officials.

But a glimmer of hope has emerged now that cellphone service has started to return to the stricken zone.

Panama City resident Wes Allen said looters have been a constant problem at the badly damaged motel where he is staying with his wife and three children.

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Florida governor Rick Scott greeted Mr Trump upon his arrival at Eglin Air Force Base, and the president immediately praised Mr Scott for an "incredible" storm response. "For every one person we have made contact with, there are probably three we haven't", Marchetti said. Debris, downed trees and power lines have hampered access to stranded people, but CrowdSource said a number of its missing person reports resulted from widespread phone and power outages. "There were all kinds of messages, Facebook notifications, emails and emergency alerts".