MIAMI – Rescue teams working in northwest Florida where last week Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc found two more bodies on Tuesday, raising the death toll from the storm to between 26-31, according to press reports.
There is no single official tally of the powerful storm’s victims but media outlets have been keeping an informal count, according to their own reporting, and – as a result – discrepancies exist regarding the death toll and where those victims perished.
According to the daily Tampa Bay Times, 21 people are known to have died in Florida, along with 10 more in other southeastern states for a total of 31, but CNN says that 26 people are known to have died, 16 of them in Florida.
Both tallies agree that 12 of the dead were in Bay County, where Michael made landfall last Wednesday.
The finding of two more bodies in recent hours was confirmed by police teams working at the storm’s so-called Ground Zero, the town of Mexico Beach, where Michael swept ashore as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph) and a storm surge of up to 4.2 meters (14 feet).
The floodwaters are receding gradually in the region and that is how the two bodies were located, according to a Twitter message posted by the sheriff’s department in Palm Beach County, in southeast Florida, which sent a team to the disaster zone.
One of the bodies was found with the help of a drone and the other was located by a rescue dog.
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long had said that the number of fatalities would probably rise over time as search operations continued.
Michael not only devastated a swath of northwest Florida but also brought flooding and other problems to several southeastern states before it passed out over the Atlantic, where it dissipated.
No official assessment of the material damage has been made as of yet, but images of Mexico Beach, a town of about 1,000 residents that was largely destroyed, and of the nearby city of Panama Beach show that the damage was extensive.