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Florida authorities reported 58 confirmed deaths Monday as a result of Hurricane Ian, which passed through the southwestern part of the state, where emergency crews are still searching and rescuing today.
Most of these deaths have been from drowning or cardiac problems, and the number is expected to rise in the coming hours and days, state officials said during a press conference led by Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.
Since last week, more than 1,600 people have been rescued throughout the state, especially in the southwest, the ground zero after Ian’s passage, and the center, where many homes were flooded.
Federal and state agencies are keeping a thousand rescuers in the area for rescue work, especially on the barrier islands that remain cut off after the destruction of roads and bridges, and where essential services such as drinking water, telephone, internet, and electricity are scarce.
Five days after Ian hit Cayo Costa in the southwestern part of the state with winds of 150 mph, some 600,000 people in Florida are still without power. However, Guthrie estimated that power will be almost fully restored by Sunday, except for homes and buildings with “catastrophic damage.”
The official thanked the more than 43,000 workers who restored electricity to more than 2 million people shortly after the hurricane’s passage.
Col. Gene Spaulding of the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Bureau said that some 1,700 members of the agency are mobilized and have cleared and made operational nearly 5,000 miles of state highways.
Authorities are working with their Lee County counterparts to repair runways and restore land access to Pine Island, near Cayo Costa, where residents have been accessing by boat, hydrofoil, or air.
Ray Murphy, mayor of nearby Fort Myers Beach, told NBC News on Monday that search and rescue operations will remain in the devastated town for another two days, during which time the access bridge that connects it to San Carlos Island will remain closed.
According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, insurers have already claimed $474 million in damages from Ian through more than 62,000 petitions, mostly made for residential properties.
Guthrie noted that authorities have devised a plan for all those in “emergency shelters” to move to temporary shelters. At the same time, schools in the Southwest, some of which have served as shelters, are expected to be able to resume classes later this week.