Rescuers comb rubble of Florida beach communities for Hurricane Michael survivors

Rescuers comb rubble of Florida beach communities for Hurricane Michael survivors

"It was bad, and now there's just nothing left".

The images, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, show severe damage in Mexico Beach, Florida, which took an nearly direct hit from one of the most powerful storms to make landfall on the USA mainland.

Hundreds of people have been rescued from the debris and authorities fear the toll could climb higher as search-and-rescue efforts continue. As the tropical storm continued to weaken it was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes. Numerous most heavily-hit areas have not yet been reached, as flooding, downed power lines, trees and other debris blocking roadways are prohibiting crews' access. Flash flooding also was reported in the big North Carolina cities of Charlotte and Raleigh. Despite the destruction, the Rev. Luke Farabaugh and his congregation celebrated Mass on Thursday.

Blocks and blocks of homes were demolished, reduced to piles of splintered lumber or mere concrete slabs, by the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental almost 50 years.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday morning that the state has "half a million gallons of fuel being distributed daily at 40 fueling stations to support our utility crews as they work around the clock to restore power".

Nearly 1.1 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia early on Friday, according to utility companies.

Michael Williams, 70, looks for help from passing motorists for food and water as downed trees prevent him from driving out of his damaged home in the aftermath of hurricane Michael with his family in Springfield, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

"I know you just want to go home".

In one community, Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Twisted street signs lay on the ground.

Hundreds of residents were rescued on Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water.

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Mr. Long said he worries about "hurricane amnesia" and called for rebuilding to be done "in a resilient fashion". "From satellite and radar monitoring, to computer models of track and intensity, and to dissemination of warnings by the NWS, private forecasters, the media, and local and national emergency managers, many lives were saved".

An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated Michael caused about $8 billion in damage. It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. "I will be visiting both Florida and Georgia early next week".

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree was the first of "four storm-related fatalities" announced by the Gadsden County Sheriff's office.

The other deaths included four in Florida and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia who died when a "carport hit her home in Seminole County", said The Weather Channel. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.

Debris and floodwater are also making some of the worst-hit areas hard to reach.

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in Panama City, another one of the hardest-hit spots, after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

In hard-hit Mexico Beach alone, state officials say, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Michael.

Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind.

"Mexico Beach needs your prayers", Albrecht said of the town of about 1,200 people. But the fate of many residents was unknown.

Decambre said she had opened her home to a friend who takes care of three elderly women. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be okay.

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