TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As recovery and relief efforts continue following Hurricane Ian’s devastating landfall last week, the death toll continues to rise.
In a Monday night update, the Florida Medical Examiners Commission confirmed 68 deaths. The Associated Press reported an additional three deaths in Florida, as well as four in North Carolina and three in Cuba, bringing the death toll to 78.
More deaths are expected in the coming days.
Search and rescue efforts were still ongoing Monday in Florida. More than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide, according to Florida’s emergency management agency.
While search and rescue operations continue in the most remote affected areas of the state, thousands of utility workers continue to patch Florida’s battered electrical grid as many are still left without power. On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said over 95% of Floridians who lost access to electricity during the storm have already had their power restored.
However, thousands living in Charlotte, Lee, DeSoto, Hardee, southern Sarasota, and Collier counties are still without power.
“Now it’s time to bring all the resources to help everyone here,” DeSantis said standing in front of the ravaged Cape Coral Pier in Lee County.
The governor said his focus is shifting to restoring vital roads and bridges that were washed away by powerful flood surges.
He added that Florida Department of Transportation trucks will begin surveying the damage to bridges connecting Pine Island and Sanibel Island to the mainland. DeSantis said he hopes FDOT will have a temporary bridge in place by the end of the week to connect residents on Pine Island with a reliable transportation option off the island.
FDOT is also in the planning stages to construct a temporary bridge to reconnect Sanibel Island. No expected timeline was announced.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit Florida on Wednesday. The president was in Puerto Rico on Monday, promising to “rebuild it all” after Hurricane Fiona knocked out all power to the island two weeks ago.
After moving across Florida, Ian made another landfall in the U.S. in South Carolina as a much weaker hurricane. Officials said Monday that crews were finishing removing sand from coastal roads and nearly all power had been restored.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.