At least 21 dead in Florida as victims face unfathomable destruction

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At least 21 people are dead in Florida after Hurricane Ian slammed the south and central parts of the state as a massive Category 4 hurricane, leaving behind a devastating trail of destruction.

A team of Channel 2 Action News reporters were in Florida and South Carolina Friday, where Ian made a final landfall as a Category 1 hurricane.

Channel 2′s George Estevez traveled to hard-hit Fort Myers, where many buildings were gone and nearly two million homes and businesses were without power.

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In some places, homes were wiped off their foundations and entire hotels were washed away.

“You watch things starting to fly, the lanai went off, part of the roof went off, the rest of the roof went off,” James Burdette said. “The walls caved in.”

The difficult search for survivors is now underway.

Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson with the U.S. Navy said that the rescues are a challenge even for trained professionals.


“They’re dealing with high water, you know, cities that don’t look like cities anymore,” McPherson said.

Estevez talked to one mother and daughter who were rescued from the top of their car after three hours of watching the water rise around them.

“We were scared to death,” Eva Neocleous said. “I thought I was going to die.”

In another part of Fort Myers, rescue crews pulled a man from piles of rubble and debris. His wife is still missing.

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As Florida races to recover, 1,000 FEMA personnel have been deployed to supply millions of liters of water, meals and hundreds of generators.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said there are a lot of people who are going to need a lot of help.

“FEMA has individual assistance for this community, which is important, but they’re only allowed to do certain things, so we really want to enlist the help of the private sector to be able to help us and help people get back on their feet,” DeSantis said.

The total cost to repair the damage in Florida is projected to be about $60 billion.

Georgia escaped with minimal impacts from the storm.