The sheriff of Lee County, Florida, which encompasses Fort Myers, which was hit by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, estimated Thursday that deaths resulting from the hurricane could number in the hundreds, but later clarified that he could only confirm around five fatalities.
Winds up to 155 mph blasted the Florida coastline as Ian was rated a Category 4 hurricane.
“While I don’t have confirmed numbers, I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos. “There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued, and again I cannot give a true assessment until we are actually on scene assessing each scene and we can’t access people that’s the problem.”
“We’re accessing the bridges,” he continued, as The Daily Mail reported. “We’re seeing what’s compromised and what’s not. And this will be a life-changing event for the men and women who are responding; they’re going to see things that they’ve never seen before.”
“So we’re going to get together, he concluded. “It’s a great state; we have great people here, and everyone wants to help.”
“Fatalities in the hundreds?” Stephanopoulos pressed.
“So far, confirmed in the hundreds, meaning that we are responding to events, drownings. Again, unsure of the exact details because we are just starting to scratch the surface on this assessment,” Marceno answered.
Marceno later clarified in an interview with CNN that he doesn’t “know the exact numbers” and he could only confirm “roughly five” fatalities.
On Thursday morning, Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson told CNN he was “happy to report we have no reports of loss of life in the city of Fort Myers.”
Fort Myers, FL Mayor Kevin Anderson says he is "happy to report we have no reports of loss of life in the city of Fort Myers" so far. pic.twitter.com/BaFEqLui0r
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) September 29, 2022
“As Hurricane Ian moves through our area, we are starting to see a glimpse of the damage it has done,” The Lee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page acknowledged on Wednesday night. “Earlier today, the temporary outreach center on Fort Myers Beach became disconnected from its foundation and was swept away by the large storm surge.”
On Thursday, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office issued an update, stating:
Lee County is actively engaged in search and rescue efforts, assessing infrastructure and structural damage and intensifying other response and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which caused catastrophic damage throughout Lee County.
USAR – Urban Search and Rescue – crews from local agencies such as fire, law enforcement and EMS – began before daylight. Also, Federal Urban Search and Rescue teams from across the country are deploying. These are experts trained in all types of rescue scenarios. The State Emergency Operations Center is helping expedite this. And Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force units will help responders get to you. This plan is moving forward, led by first responder and fire representatives inside the Emergency Operations Center.