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Hurricane Ian death count tops 70 in Florida. Drowning is the leading cause of death

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 10/3/2022 Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald
Streets of downtown in Fort Myers get flooded due to the surge of the Caloosahatchee River as Hurricane Ian hit the West Coast of Florida as Category 4 storm, on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Drowning has emerged as the top cause of death from the storm. © Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS Streets of downtown in Fort Myers get flooded due to the surge of the Caloosahatchee River as Hurricane Ian hit the West Coast of Florida as Category 4 storm, on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Drowning has emerged as the top cause of death from the storm.

Most of the deaths in Hurricane Ian were from drowning, according to official accounts of fatalities from a storm that has killed at least 70 people, according to authorities.

Officially, 25 deaths have been tied to Hurricane Ian, according to reports from medical examiner offices, but authorities are reporting far more deaths in hard-hit areas.

Combining tallies from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission with other deaths reported by sheriff offices on Saturday, Hurricane Ian has killed 71 people in Florida.

Fatality numbers are likely to rise in the coming days. Rescue teams also haven’t been able to reach all areas hit by Ian, with an unknown number of people still missing from the storm.

READ MORE: Searching for survivors at Ian’s ground zero, Fort Myers Beach. It doesn’t always end well

On Saturday, Lee County’s sheriff announced 35 deaths from Hurricane Ian in that hard-hit jurisdiction alone, nearly triple the official count for Lee released the same day by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission.

“It is with a heavy heart that I say that number,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a Facebook video post.

Lee County accounts for half of the Ian deaths in tallies from medical examiner offices across Florida. Those reports show floodwaters were the greatest danger from the storm. Of the 25 official fatalities in those reports, all but five listed drowning as a cause of death.

Those official death reports included an 87-year-old man founded on Friday in a submerged car in Lee County. He also suffered injuries from impact. On Friday, a 61-year-old man was found draped over a bench in Lee as well, with drowning the cause of death.

In Sarasota County, a 62-year-old woman was found dead Friday after being trapped in a car, with drowning listed as the cause of death.

Here are some of the latest reports on fatalities from Hurricane Ian:

Lee County

The 35 fatalities announced by Sheriff Marceno Saturday represent the highest number of Ian deaths in any Florida county. Lee also leads the official tallies from the Medical Examiners Commission, which has confirmed 12 deaths tied to Ian.

Gov. Ron DeSantis called Lee “ground zero” for Ian destruction given the severe flooding in an area that includes the islands of Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel.

Charlotte County

Ian made landfall in Charlotte, a county that includes Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte. So far, Charlotte hasn’t shown up on the fatality reports from the medical examiners. The Sheriff’s Office in Charlotte County on Saturday reported 23 deaths “directly or indirectly” tied to Ian, said spokesperson Claudette Smith.

“We cannot confirm cause of death,” Smith said, adding that will be determined by the Medical Examiner.

Volusia County

Facing the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s East Coast, Volusia County had five Ian-related drownings through Saturday, according to the medical examiners report. Rain-driven floods hit the county, which is home to Daytona Beach.

Other Florida counties

Collier County reported three drownings from Ian. Sarasota County reported one person dead from drowning while trapped in a vehicle, and two Ian fatalities tied to a roofing accident and somoene who collapsed in a bathroom during the storm and died of natural causes. Lake and Manatee counties each reported Ian deaths tied to auto crashes during the storm.

©2022 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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