Hurricane Ian Death Toll 'In the Hundreds,' Says Florida Sheriff
( Newsweek )
Speaking to Good Morning America on Thursday morning, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said "fatalities are in the hundreds" following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian over Florida.
"So, while I don't have confirmed numbers, I definitely know fatalities are in the hundreds," Marceno said. "There are thousands of people waiting to be rescued.
"And again, I can't give a true assessment until we're actually on scene assessing each scene. And we can't access, that's the problem," he added.
"We're accessing the bridges, 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 they've never seen before."
As the hurricane swept through Florida with the strength of a Category 4 storm overnight on Wednesday, cities in Lee County found themselves submerged under feet of water. Lee County officials warned residents to stay inside their homes, as it was "no longer safe to be on the roads."
Authorities in Fort Myers and Naples, whose streets were completely flooded on Wednesday night, ordered citywide curfews to keep their citizens safe.
In Fort Myers, where the storm left some 420,000 people without power, according to PowerOutage.us, the curfew was imposed on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and will remain in force for 48 hours. Naples' authorities said the curfew will be effective until further notice.
The full impact of the hurricane, as well as the exact death toll, is not yet known, as the dangerous weather conditions hindered rescue operations through the night. It's likely that the consequences of the storm—the most powerful to ever hit the U.S.—will be revealed throughout the day.
"It hit us, and it crushed us," Marceno said. "We're assessing as we speak."
After making the initial statement to Good Morning America, Marceno reportedly walked back on the announced death toll.
Good Morning America deleted the tweet containing the clip including the Lee County's sheriff's quote and journalist Rob Marciano tweeted that "the sheriff may be walking this back some."
Marceno told Good Morning America that officers in Lee County were "just starting to scratch the surface" as rescuers responded to residents trapped in their home by the water and drownings.
He said 911 received thousands of calls for help overnight.
"This will be a life-changing event for the men and women that are responding," Marceno said. "They're going to see things that they haven't seen before."