Florida Governor Ron de Santis said billionaire Elon Musk will provide 120 Starlink satellites “to help solve some communications problems.”
Rescuers evacuated shock survivors from a large barrier island cut by Hurricane Ian as the death toll in Florida continued to rise and severe storms pounded the state’s southwest coast and even the Carolinas. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without electricity after they arrived.
Florida, which killed about four dozen people, was hardest hit by a Category 4 hurricane, one of the most powerful hurricanes in the United States.
The flood destroyed roads and obstructed bridges to the islands, leaving many people isolated, with limited cell phone signals and without basic resources such as water, electricity and the Internet.
Florida Governor Ron de Santis said on Saturday that billionaire Elon Musk will provide 120 Starlink satellites “to help solve some communication problems.”
Starlink, a satellite-based internet system made by Musk’s company SpaceX, will offer high-speed connections.
Florida utility companies were working to restore power. As of Saturday night, nearly one million homes and businesses had no electricity, up from 2.67 million a few days ago.
Overall, at least 54 deaths have been confirmed, 47 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.
Four-star general and National Guard chief Daniel Hokson told the Associated Press during a visit to Florida that more than 1,000 people had been rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwest coast alone.
In Washington, the White House announced that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Florida on Wednesday. The brief statement did not give further details about the trip.
The bridge over Pine Island, the largest barrier island off Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast, was destroyed in the storm, making it accessible only by air or boat.
The Medic Corps volunteer group, which sends pilots, paramedics and doctors to areas affected by natural disasters, goes door-to-door asking neighbors if they want to evacuate.
Some people were released by helicopter, with people describing the horrors of being trapped in their homes as the waters rose.
“The water kept hitting the house and we saw the boats, the house, everything blew up,” Joe Conforti said, fighting back tears. He said that if his wife had not suggested to climb on the table to escape from the water, he would not have survived.
“When you have water on the door and there’s a bang on the door and you see how fast it goes, there’s no way to escape it.”
The overflow of rivers posed a great challenge to the rescue and supply of supplies. The Mayaka River flooded a section of Interstate 75, which had to be temporarily closed on Saturday.
Although river levels are at or near peak in southwest Florida, levels are not expected to drop significantly for a few days, said Tyler Fleming, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa.
In North Carolina, the storm downed trees and power lines. Two out of four deaths in the state were due to vehicle accidents linked to the storm. The other two were a man who drowned when his truck fell into a swamp and died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in a garage.
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