Biden approves major disaster declaration for Florida as hundreds feared dead
Officials are still assessing the damage from Hurricane Ian, but one county sheriff fears the number of fatalities is dire.
Lee Area Sherriff Carmine Marceno estimated during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the casualties in his county were in the hundreds.
“I don’t have confirmed numbers. I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds. There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued,” Marceno, a Republican, said. His county includes Fort Myers.
The exact number won’t be known for several days. Following past hurricanes, officials have overestimated deaths as they undertake rescue missions to search homes one at a time.
Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN that there had been no confirmed reports of fatalities.
She explained, “I understand that some of the sheriffs are predicting a large number of fatalities, but that’s why we want our search and rescue teams out there. That’s why they’re out there.” “We want to save as many lives as possible.”
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September 29, 2022
During a press conference in Tallahassee on Thursday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis echoed Criswell’s statement that it would take at least a day to confirm fatalities.
“None of that is confirmed,” he said of the sheriff’s comments about fatalities. “I think what that is, is there were 911 calls for individuals saying, ‘Hey, the water is rising in my home. I’m going to go up in the attic, but I’m extremely frightened.’ Of course those persons are now going to be checked on.”
Two deaths had been reported so far, DeSantis said, though officials were still assessing whether they were storm-related.
State and local officials advised more than 2.5 million people in the path of the storm to evacuate their homes, but some people chose to stay. Others could not leave because of cost, illness, or because they didn’t have access to transportation.
President Joe Biden on Thursday morning approved DeSantis’ request for a major disaster declaration. The designation would help people affected by the storm by paying for temporary housing and home repairs, among other recovery programs.
The congressional delegation of Florida, including Democrats, supported DeSantis’s request. DeSantis and Biden spoke Thursday morning, and the governor said he would be asking for more counties to receive an emergency declaration given that the storm was still moving and causing damage.
He predicted that Central Florida, including Orlando, would experience severe flooding.
“This is going to require years of effort to be able to rebuild and to be able to come back,” DeSantis said.
Criswell will be heading to Florida on Friday, the White House said in a read-out about the call between Biden and DeSantis.