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Hurricane Ian blamed for at least 34 deaths in Florida

The true death toll from the powerful Category 4 storm that devastated parts of the state could go higher.
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At least 23 people in Florida have died because of Hurricane Ian, state officials said Friday.

The true death toll from the powerful Category 4 storm that devastated parts of the state could go higher.

The number released by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission have been confirmed to be related to the storm after autopsies. Most of the 23 drowned.

Hurricane Ian aftermath, homes houses destroyed, property destruction
Damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Sept. 29, 2022.Wilfredo Lee / AP

Local officials have reported other deaths from the hurricane that have not, as of Friday evening, been confirmed by the medical examiners commission.

According to an NBC News count of reports from officials, there have been 34 deaths in Florida.

Of the confirmed storm-related deaths, 12 were in Lee County, where the hurricane made landfall with 150-mph winds around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The people who died in Lee County ranged in age from 50 to 92, according to the state. One woman who drowned was found floating in seven feet of water, the medical examiners commission said.  

In addition to the deaths in Lee County, four people died in Volusia County on the Atlantic Coast, according to the commission. One was a 68-year-old woman who was swept into the ocean by a wave Thursday.

Three people drowned in Collier County, which is south of Lee County, according to the commission.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Division, said Friday that first responders initially conducted a search to find obvious victims and people needing rescue, and then returned for more extensive searches.

More than 1.6 million electricity customers in Florida remained without power Friday, and utilities said some areas could see prolonged outages because of the devastation.

On Sanibel Island, south of where the hurricane made landfall, four people were killed, Dana Souza, Sanibel city manager, said Friday. It was not clear if they were included in the state count.

The island was struck by a storm surge of between 8 and 15 feet, he said after touring the community earlier in the day.

“We were all humbled by the amount of devastation that we saw across the island,” Souza said.

Hurricane Ian is one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded to have struck the United States. It then moved over the Atlantic Ocean and weakened, and on Friday hit South Carolina as a Category 1 storm.