PANAMA CITY, United States -- Search and rescue teams combed through shattered US communities on Thursday looking for victims of Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 monster storm which carved out a swathe of destruction in the Florida Panhandle, killing at least six in three states.
In Mexico Beach, a seafront town where the hurricane made landfall, houses had been razed by storm surge, boats had been tossed into yards and the streets were littered with trees and power lines.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said the storm had caused “unbelievable devastation” and the priority for the moment was looking for survivors among residents who failed to heed orders to evacuate.
“I’m very concerned about our citizens that didn’t evacuate and I just hope that, you know, we don’t have much loss of life,” Scott told ABC.
The US Army said more than 2,000 Florida National Guard soldiers were working on the recovery operations.
There have been six confirmed storm-related deaths so far — four in Florida’s Gadsden County, one in Georgia, and one in North Carolina.
President Donald Trump pledged to help storm victims.
“Our hearts are with the thousands who have sustained property damage, in many cases entirely wiped out,” Trump said. “We will not rest or waver until the job is done and the recovery is complete.”
Florida officials said more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida and Governor Scott said nearly 20,000 utility workers had been deployed to restore power.
Michael made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, the most powerful to hit Florida’s northwestern Panhandle in more than a century.
Michael has since been downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves through the Carolinas, which are still recovering from last month’s Hurricane Florence.
Mexico Beach, where the hurricane came ashore, suffered massive destruction from the 155 mile per hour (250 kph) winds and several feet (meters) of storm surge.