Hurricane Ian death toll rises above 80, response criticized

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The death toll from Hurricane Ian in the southeastern United States has climbed past 80 as some officials face criticism over their response to the storm.

At least 85 storm-related deaths have been confirmed since Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 249 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour).

Florida accounted for all but four of the fatalities.

The sheriff’s office in coastal Lee County, which includes devastated Fort Myers, said it had counted 42 dead, with 39 deaths reported by officials in neighboring counties.

Officials in Lee County have faced questions over whether they mandated evacuations in time.

Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the county’s board of commissioners, said on Sunday that evacuation orders were given as soon as the hurricane’s direction became clear. Even then, some people chose to ride out the storm, Pendergrass said.

Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, said the federal government planned to unleash a huge amount of aid, focusing its attention on Florida first. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are due to travel to the state on Wednesday.

Criswell said Sunday that the federal government, including the Coast Guard and Department of Defense, had moved into position “the largest amount of search and rescue assets that I think we’ve ever put in place before”.

Agencies

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