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Searches intensify after body is found

Monday, October 15, 2018

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MEXICO BEACH, Florida (AP) — Rescuers intensified efforts Sunday to find survivors who might be trapped amid the ruins of a small Florida Panhandle community nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael where one body has already been recovered, tempers are flaring, and power could be out for weeks.

Crews with dogs went door-to-door in Mexico Beach pushing aside debris to get inside badly damaged structures in a second wave of searches following what they described as an initial, “hasty” search of the area. About 1,700 search and rescue personnel have checked 25,000 homes, Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

Authorities say there is little doubt the death toll will rise from the storm, which made landfall Wednesday as a Category four hurricane with 155 mph winds (249 kph) and heavy storm surge. The tally of lives lost across South Florida stood at 17, including the victim found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.

More roads were passable along the storm-ravaged coast as crews cleared downed trees and power lines, but traffic lights remained out and long lines heightened tensions at one of the area's few open gas stations.

Schools will stay closed indefinitely, a hospital halted operations and sent 200 patients to hospitals elsewhere in Florida and in Alabama, and more than 253,000 customers in the Panhandle remain without power.

Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the US. While most residents fled ahead of the storm's arrival, others stayed to face the hurricane. Some barely escaped with their lives as homes were pushed off their foundations and whole neighborhoods became submerged.

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