Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday refused to address the number of people reported dead from Hurricane Ian, saying that the number of people confirmed dead by the storm will eventually be released.
”I know that people have said certain things,” DeSantis said. “In terms of confirmed, that will be made apparent over the coming days.”
Local officials and sheriffs have reported as many as 17 people killed in the storm, and President Joe Biden said it “could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.”
”It’s a massive storm. I mean, I think we anticipate casualties,” DeSantis said. But he did not agree with the president’s assessment.
The deadliest hurricane in Florida history was the 1928 storm that struck Palm Beach County, killing more than 2,500 people.
”I don’t think we will be anywhere approaching that,” DeSantis said.
Instead, he said there have been some non-storm related deaths reported.
”For example, in Charlotte County, they recorded a suicide during the storm,” he said. “They also had somebody pass away from a heart attack because you don’t have access to emergency services.”
More than 700 people have been rescued, DeSantis said, but he did not say how many have been reported missing or have asked for help.
Police and rescue crews are going door to door checking on people who are visibly in need.
”What they’re finding is on places like Sanibel, most of the residents are just waving, thank you for coming, but they say that they’re fine, and that they’re staying put,” DeSantis said. “That’s a sign that some of the folks who did ride it out are stabilized in their home.”
State officials did not say Thursday which areas of Southwest Florida are safe to return to. But they did urge people not to go out to look for damage — and not to fly their drones where military and search and rescue aircraft.
”When you go in there with your drone, they have to stop working,” Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said. “Please stay out of the area and let us do our job.”
Thursday’s news conference at the state’s Emergency Operations Center also included the CEO of Walmart U.S., John Furner, who touted a $1.5 million donation to the state’s disaster fund.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.