MIAMI — Florida officials reported more than 35 fatalities appear to be linked to Hurricane Ian, including the deaths of two elderly people who were disconnected from oxygen machines due to power outages.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno on Friday afternoon announced 16 storm-related deaths, and five deaths that are not storm-related. 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” during a Friday afternoon press conference in Fort Myers.
The official death toll continued to rise. At a morning press conference, Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s emergency management director, said there was one confirmed death in Polk County, eight unconfirmed deaths in Collier County and 12 unconfirmed deaths in Charlotte County.
The local medical examiner determines 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.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office also provided more details about the two deaths it reported Thursday, saying they were a 94-year-old man who lived near the Palmer Ranch area and an 80-year-old woman who lived near north Sarasota.
Both individuals relied on oxygen machines that were disabled following power outages, according to the sheriff’s office.
“This is a significant and catastrophic storm,” Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman said in a Friday video. “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.”
DEATHS BY COUNTY
Sarasota County: 2
Lee County: 16 storm-related, 5 non-storm