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Devastated Southwest Florida calls for volunteers after Ian

Boats.jpg
Rebecca Blackwell
/
AP
In this photo taken by a drone, boats lie scattered amid mobile homes after the passage of Hurricane Ian, on San Carlos Island in Fort Myers Beach.

Florida emergency management is calling on volunteers from across the state who can donate their time to hurricane cleanup in Southwest Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis says rebuilding will take months. 

"You have people that have been dislocated, you have people that no longer have homes, and so there's going to be a wide variety of things that they're going to need in the coming days, weeks and months," DeSantis said Friday morning. "Volunteer Florida, if you want to volunteer your time, visit www.volunteerflorida.org, to find volunteer opportunities. I think this is one way where you can really make an impact."

The death toll is rising as search and rescue teams continue to scour the area.

Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said 21 people had been reported dead as of Friday morning, but there are likely more. 

"We do have an identified situation that was done during the hasty search," he said. "The water was up over the rooftop, right? But we had a Coast Guard rescue swimmer swim down into it and he could identify it appeared to be human remains. We do not know exactly how many; we do not know what the situation is."

Guthrie said search and rescue teams are still waiting for the water to recede and for specialized equipment in some areas to confirm the total number of people killed.

State emergency managers say 14,000 people remain in shelters across the three hardest-hit counties: Hardee, Charlotte and Lee. 

The vast majority of all three counties are still without power, but utilities had already restored power to 700,000 customers by Friday afternoon, according to the governor's office.

Donations were pouring into the Florida Disaster Fund, surpassing $10 million in just 24 hours of being activated. In partnership with public, private and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. To contribute, go to FloridaDisasterFund.org or text DISASTER to 20222.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.