With the death toll from Hurricane Ian rising and hundreds of thousands of people without power in Florida and the Carolinas, US officials vowed Sunday to unleash an unprecedented amount of federal disaster aid as crews scrambled to rescue people still trapped by floodwaters. Days after Ian tore through central Florida, carving a deadly path of destruction into the Carolinas, water levels continued to rise in some flooded areas, inundating homes and streets that were passable just a day or two earlier, the AP reports.
Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government was ready to help in a huge way, focusing first on victims in Florida, which took the brunt of one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the United States. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday. Criswell told Fox News Sunday that the federal government began to arrange the "largest amount of search-and-rescue assets that I think we've ever put in place before" to supplement Florida's resources. Even so, recovery will take time, said Criswell, who visited the state on Friday and Saturday to assess the damage and talk to survivors. She cautioned that dangers remain.
"We worry a lot about the direct impacts from the storm itself as it is making landfall, but we see so many more injuries and sometimes more fatalities after the storm," Criswell said. "People need to stay vigilant right now. Standing water brings with it all kinds of hazards—it has debris, it could have power lines, it could have hazards in there that you just don't know about." At least 54 people have been confirmed dead: 47 in Florida, four in North Carolina, and three in Cuba. The weakened storm drifted north on Sunday and was expected to dump rain on parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania, according to the National Hurricane Center, which warned of the potential for flash flooding.
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