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Live updates as storm hits South Carolina

Biden approves major disaster declaration for Florida as hundreds fear death

Authorities are still assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, but a county sheriff fears the death toll could be disastrous.

Carmine Marceno, Lee County Sheriff valued during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​that deaths in his county numbered in the hundreds.

“I don’t have any confirmed numbers. I know the dead are in the hundreds. There are thousands of people waiting to be rescued,” said Marceno, a Republican. His county includes Fort Myers.

The exact number will not be known for several days. After past hurricanesofficials have overstated the deaths as they embark on rescue missions to search homes one by one.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN she does not yet have any confirmed reports of the deaths.

“I understand that some of the sheriffs are saying they expect a high death toll, but that’s why we want to send our search and rescue teams there. That’s why they’re there.” , she said. “We want to save as many lives as possible.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis echoed Criswell’s comments at a news conference in Tallahassee on Thursday morning, saying it would take a day or more to confirm the deaths.

“None of this is confirmed,” he said of the sheriff’s comments about the deaths. “I think what it is is that there have been 911 calls for people saying, ‘Hey, the water is rising in my house. I’m going up to the attic, but I’m really worried. Of course, these people will now be checked.”

Two deaths have been reported so far, DeSantis said, though officials are still assessing whether they were related to the storm.

State and local authorities advised more than 2.5 million people in the storm’s path to evacuate their homes, but some people chose to stay. Others couldn’t leave because of cost, illness, or because they didn’t have access to transportation.

President Joe Biden on Thursday morning approved DeSantis’ request for a major disaster declaration. The designation would help those affected by the storm by paying for temporary housing and home repairs, among other recovery programs.

Florida’s congressional delegation, including Democrats, supported DeSantis’ request. DeSantis and Biden spoke Thursday morning. The governor said he would ask more counties to receive emergency declarations as the storm was still moving and causing damage.

Central Florida, including Orlando, would face major flooding, he said.

“It’s going to take years of trying to be able to rebuild and be able to come back,” DeSantis said.

Criswell will travel to Florida on Friday, the White House said in a statement on the call between Biden and DeSantis.