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Hurricane Ian death toll may have surpassed 50

Those confirmed dead across eight counties range from age 22 to 92.
Damage and destruction is seen along Pine Island Road Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha.
Damage and destruction is seen along Pine Island Road Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Matlacha. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 1|Updated Oct. 1

Florida officials estimate there may be more than 50 deaths across eight counties linked to Hurricane Ian.

At least 18 of the people who died drowned. Three died when their oxygen machines stopped working due to power outages.

The youngest fatality confirmed by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission was a 22-year-old woman in Manatee County. The oldest confirmed death was a 92-year-old man in Lee County.

Here is a summary of what Florida officials have reported by county.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY

There were 12 deaths in Charlotte County, all unconfirmed, said Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s emergency management director.

The medical examiner must determine if a death is storm-related or not, Guthrie said, which is why several counties have reported some deaths as “unconfirmed” for the time being.

COLLIER COUNTY

Three deaths were confirmed to be from drowning. The victims included a 73-year-old woman who was found on Thursday; a 73-year-old woman who was found on Wednesday, and a 64-year-old woman who was found on Wednesday.

Guthrie said Friday morning that there were eight unconfirmed deaths in Collier County.

It was unclear if the three confirmed Collier County deaths announced Friday evening were included in the eight that Guthrie mentioned earlier in the day.

LAKE COUNTY

The one death reported in Lake County was a 38-year-old man who died in a crash when his car hydroplaned on Wednesday, the Medical Examiners Commission said.

LEE COUNTY

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno on Friday afternoon announced 16 storm-related deaths and five non-storm-related deaths. Marceno didn’t provide further details.

That’s the first preliminary fatality count out of the region that Gov. Ron DeSantis described as “ground zero” and “where the storm packed its biggest punch.”

On Friday night, the Florida Medical Examiners Commission reported 12 deaths in Lee County. It’s unclear if those deaths were included in Marceno’s announcement.

All but one of the deaths reported were caused by drowning. The one exception was ruled a natural death because the 82-year-old man had a history of disease.

Three of the county’s fatalities had unconfirmed or unknown ages.

MANATEE COUNTY

A 22-year-old woman died in the county after she was ejected from an ATV during a rollover on Friday due to road washout, according to the Medical Examiners Commission.

POLK COUNTY

The county has one confirmed death, according to Guthrie.

SARASOTA COUNTY

The county’s four deaths included a 71-year-old man who died from head injuries on Tuesday when he fell off a roof while putting up shutters, according to the Medical Examiners Commission.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office provided details about the deaths of a 94-year-old man who lived near the Palmer Ranch area and an 80-year-old woman who lived near north Sarasota, saying both individuals relied on oxygen machines that were disabled from power outages.

On Friday night, the Medical Examiners Commission announced the death of an 80-year-old man who collapsed after being unable to use oxygen.

VOLUSIA COUNTY

The county had four fatalities from drowning, including a 91-year-old man who was found on Thursday; a 79 year-old man also found on Thursday; a 67-year-old man who was found on Friday, and a 68-year-old woman who was swept into the ocean by a wave and found on Thursday, according to the Medical Examiners Commission.

The official death toll has continued to rise as emergency responders from across the state descend into the hardest-hit areas.

DeSantis noted on Friday that some of the newer buildings in the worst-hit areas like Fort Myers Beach, Captiva and Sanibel Island stood up to the storm.

“But man, I’ll tell you, those older homes that just aren’t as strong built, they got washed into the sea, some of them,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “And so if you were hunkering down in that, that is something that I think would be difficult to be survivable.”

In Sarasota County, where four deaths have been confirmed, Sheriff Kurt Hoffman described the storm as “significant and catastrophic.”

“I’ve lived in this community for over four decades and I have never seen a storm of this strength that has done this much damage,” Hoffman said Friday.

Guthrie described a grim situation at a home in an undisclosed location in Lee County with apparent drowning victims.

“Let me paint the picture for you. The water was up over the rooftop but we had a Coast Guard rescue swimmer swim down into it and he could identify what appeared to be human remains.”

Guthrie noted that there are “a couple of other situations” in the area with similar circumstances. Much of the county remains without power or water. There were 10-foot-high storm surges when the hurricane made landfall, Lee County Sheriff Marceno said.

“It’s definitely the worst thing I’ve seen in my life, and I’m a lifelong Floridian,” Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman told the Miami Herald on Friday. “We don’t even have water getting to the hospitals.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

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

FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.

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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