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Hurricane Ian death toll rises to 15 in Florida

It was the start of what officials say will be a long process of identifying the dead.
Pat Ton, holding his dog Ginger, takes in the damage from Hurricane Ian to homes and businesses on Third Street at Fort Myers Beach on Thursday.
Pat Ton, holding his dog Ginger, takes in the damage from Hurricane Ian to homes and businesses on Third Street at Fort Myers Beach on Thursday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 29|Updated Sep. 30

At least 15 deaths have been confirmed along several counties that were on the devastating path of Hurricane Ian, according to officals.

In Volusia County, a 72-year-old man from Deltona died Wednesday night after going outside during the storm to drain his pool, according to the local sheriff’s office. His wife reported his disappearance to authorities around 1 a.m. Deputies found his flashlight and his body in a canal behind the home. A 38-year-old Lake County man also was killed Thursday when his car hydroplaned in the air, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating two deaths related to the hurricane.

And according to the News Service of Florida, officials in Charlotte County confirmed six deaths and Lee County officials have confirmed five other deaths.

Related: ‘Absolute devastation’: Hurricane Ian decimates Fort Myers Beach

A Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said he could not confirm the six fatalities. “I can confirm that there have been deaths,” said spokesperson Christopher Hall, “but I cannot confirm how many or even what were the causes of those deaths.”

Sarasota County spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez said the information is preliminary and she did not immediately provide any more details about the two fatalities in the county. Officials in Manatee, Charlotte, Hillsborough and Collier counties told the Herald they are still assessing damage in order to determine how many — if any — storm-related deaths have occurred in their jurisdiction.

Related: Thursday live updates: Tampa Bay surveys Hurricane Ian’s damage

Calculating the death toll may be a slow process, said Claudine Buzzo of Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403, because the search teams must go grid-by-grid, one house at a time.

“Usually the fatalities —it takes days to figure out,” she said.

Buzzo is in direct contact with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Task Force 1 Team, which had approximately 60 members staged at the airport in Naples as of Thursday afternoon. The team was beginning search-and-rescue efforts in the hardest hit areas, such as Sanibel Island and Captiva.

Task Force 1 team members told Buzzo that pictures of the damage “don’t do it justice.”

“The text messages I’m getting are saying that it looks like total destruction,” she said. “It looks like what Homestead looked like after Hurricane Andrew.”

Related: Photos show the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach

Buzzo said some of the team needed to be helicoptered into the area because of the massive damage to the Sanibel Causeway. She added that the team will likely assess the damage using drones before targeting the worst-hit areas.

Another local team, Task Force 2, which is led by the city of Miami, was preparing to begin search-and-rescue missions near Marco Island late Wednesday night, according to Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.

Carroll said the team deployed 18 swift water specialists and six boats to search the heavily flooded areas.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reporter Ana Ceballos contributed to this story.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

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.

SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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