(KRON) — The death toll continues to rise from Hurricane Ian, which decimated parts of Florida’s west coast last week.
At least 68 people have died because of the strong Category 4 storm. Search and rescue efforts are currently underway to find survivors.
There are around 1,500 volunteers from the Red Cross on the ground in Florida helping people pick up their lives after Hurricane Ian, including nearly 40 volunteers the Bay Area. From the sky, the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian is clear. Bridges connecting islands to the mainland of Florida were washed out, boats came on-shore, and homes were destroyed by winds and flood waters.
According to Florida’s Emergency Management Agency, more than 1,600 people have been rescued so far and one of the first interactions those survivors will have is with the Red Cross. “Providing safe shelter for people to turn to,” said Cari Dighton, Spokesperson Red Cross.
Dighton, with the Northern California Coastal Region Chapter of the Red Cross, said the organization will likely be providing relief in Florida for weeks, if not months, as much of the state’s west coast works to clean up and rebuild. As of Monday, around 600,000 homes and businesses were still without power.
“There are more than 80 Red Cross emergency response vehicles circulating in affected neighborhoods and those vehicles are equipped with kitchens so that we can pass out critical beverages, water, food,” said Dighton.
There are 39 Red Cross volunteers who flew out from San Francisco to help in a number of ways, but Florida isn’t the only place in need. Volunteers were also recruited to help in Puerto Rico where President Biden visited Monday.
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“Hurricane Fiona hit and we still got volunteers there including three volunteers from the Bay Area. We also have volunteers in Alaska for the typhoon that hit up there so it’s simultaneously,” added Dighton. Florida state officials said the goal is to have power restored by Sunday to customers whose power lines and other electric infrastructure is still intact.
The President and First Lady plan to visit the Sunshine State Wednesday, and the Red Cross is still looking for volunteers to make the trip. “Right now the biggest need for the red cross are those folks that are willing to deploy to disasters like hurricane Ian and work in our shelters, providing feeding support, things of that nature,” said Dighton.
As of right now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) search and rescue task force, located in the Bay Area, is only deploying crews from the east coast to help with finding survivors of Hurricane Ian.