At least 72 deaths reported after Hurricane Ian slams into Florida, 4 dead in North Carolina

Search and rescue efforts are currently underway

ByMeredith Deliso and Mary Kekatos ABCNews logo
Sunday, October 2, 2022
Long road to recovery in Florida after Hurricane Ian
Rescue missions continues as Florida's death toll climbs. Lee County, which encompasses Fort Myers, accounts for most of the deaths.

At least 72 people in Florida have died due to Hurricane Ian, according to local officials.

Four people were also reported dead due to the storm in North Carolina, the governor's office said.

The Category 4 storm slammed into Florida's southwest coast Wednesday afternoon, causing catastrophic damage, fierce winds and dangerous, record-breaking storm surges.

The deaths span multiple counties in Florida, including 35 in Lee County, 23 in Charlotte County, five in Volusia County, three each in Collier County and Sarasota counties, and one each in Lake, Hendry and Manatee counties, ABC News has determined based on information from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission and inquiries with local officials and authorities.

The death toll from the catastrophic storm has been rising amid ongoing search and rescue missions.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno updated Saturday that upward of 700 people were rescued in the devastated county, though they have reported 35 deaths so far due to the storm.

"It's what a heavy heart that I say that number," Marceno, whose county is home to hard-hit Fort Myers and the barrier island Sanibel, said in video posted to Facebook.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday evening that there are 10 confirmed deaths attributed to Ian. The causes of death were primarily drownings, as well as two vehicle accidents and a roofing accident. The tally, confirmed by the Medical Examiners Commission, does not include any fatalities from hard-hit Lee or Charlotte counties.

It is unclear whether the state's figure overlaps with ABC News' analysis.

The state confirms deaths by reviewing medical examiner records, which can take some time.

The confirmed deaths from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement occurred in Lake, Sarasota, Manatee, Volusia and Collier counties between Sept. 27 and 30. The victims ranged in age from 22 to 91. One, a 68-year-old woman, drowned after being swept into the ocean by a wave on Sept. 29, the department said.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office was among the first to publicly announce a fatality from Ian. A 72-year-old man in Deltona died after attempting to drain his pool during the storm, the office said Thursday.

The man, who was not publicly identified, "disappeared" after heading outside, the sheriff's office said. Deputies found him unresponsive in a canal behind the home and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital, the sheriff's office said.

The storm made landfall again on Friday in South Carolina, which has reported no deaths due to the storm so far, Gov. Henry McMaster said Saturday.

Though in neighboring North Carolina, four storm-related deaths have been reported, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement Saturday. Three involved vehicle accidents on Friday, with the victims ranging in age from 22 to 25. Additionally, a 65-year-old man died Saturday from carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator in his closed garage while the power was out.

Emergency response was largely halted Wednesday as the storm slammed Florida with high winds and heavy rain. Search and rescue efforts were underway throughout the state Thursday.

Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, who represents the Tampa Bay area, called the situation a "major catastrophe."

"I'm afraid we're going to be dealing with a larger loss of life than we anticipated," she said on "ABC News Live" Thursday.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott told "Good Morning America" Thursday morning there were "thousands of rescue efforts going on right now."

"We've got great sheriff's departments, police departments, fire departments, state rescue teams. They're working hard. But there's a lot of people that need help right now," he said.

He expressed concern for the state's many low-lying areas.

"The water kills and I'm just -- I'm scared to death of, you know, what's happened here and I hope everybody stays safe," he said.

President Joe Biden spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday morning, telling DeSantis that FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell will travel to Florida on Friday to check in on response efforts.

Sheriff Marceno told "Good Morning America" Thursday that they had thousands of 911 calls that they were currently answering.

"We still cannot access many of the people that are in need," Marceno said. "It's a real, real rough road ahead."

President Biden issued an emergency declaration for North Carolina on Saturday, a day after the storm did its most damage.

ABC News' Jay O'Brien, Ahmad Hemmingway, Benjamin Stein and Will Gretsky contributed to this report.