Hurricane Michael: At least seven killed

  • 13/10/2018

Rescuers are searching for survivors after one of the most powerful hurricanes in US history slammed into Florida and killed at least seven people.

Hurricane Michael struck Florida's northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday with top sustained winds of 250km/h, pushing a wall of seawater inland and causing widespread flooding.

At least seven people were killed in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, according to state officials.

By early Friday morning, the fast-moving storm was about 105km northeast of Norfolk, Virginia, with top sustained winds of 95km/h, the US National Hurricane Center said.

It was threatening to bring flash floods and wind damage to parts of North Carolina and the southern Mid-Atlantic still recovering from last month's Hurricane Florence.

The storm tore entire neighbourhoods apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding, damaging roads and leaving scenes of devastation.

US Army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris in Mexico Beach to allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead.

Rescuers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) used dogs, drones and GPS in the search.

"We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is obviously the worst," said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer.

Many of the injured in Florida were taken to hard-hit Panama City, 32km northwest of Mexico Beach.

Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center treated some but the hospital evacuated 130 patients as it faced challenges running on generators after the storm knocked out power, ripped off part of its roof and smashed windows.

Much of downtown Port St Joe, 19km east of Mexico Beach, was flooded after Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, residents said.

"We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they're on the other," said Mayor Bo Patterson, who watched trees fly by his window.

Patterson estimated 1,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed in his town of 3,500 people.

Emergency services carried out dozens of rescues of people caught in swiftly moving floodwaters in North Carolina on Thursday.

Almost 1.1 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia early on Friday.

The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.

Reuters