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Hundreds of search and rescue operations underway in southwest Florida, DeSantis says

Gov. Ron DeSantis said first responders have been providing relief in some of Florida's most battered areas, including Fort Myers and Sanibel.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Relief and rescue operations are ongoing as southwest Florida begins to assess the damage left behind by Hurricane Ian.

In a news conference on Thursday evening, Gov. Ron DeSantis said more than 700 people have been rescued in Charlotte and Lee counties. Operations got underway as soon as it was safe for first responders to do so Thursday morning. 

From the U.S. Coast Guard to Urban Search and Rescue Teams and the National Guard, DeSantis said search and rescue operations will continue and county leaders are still collecting more data from search efforts.

Of the more than 700 rescue operations, they're happening in Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Marco Island, and the Barrier Islands in Charlotte County.

"First responders are doing targeted searches, just going home by home checking to see if people are OK and then responding to specific reports if there are missing loved ones," DeSantis said.

At this time, DeSantis did not confirm any deaths directly related to the hurricane. However, the governor said he expects to see mortality from this catastrophic hurricane.

"In terms of confirmed [deaths], that will be made apparent over the coming days," DeSantis added.

Since Hurricane Ian passed through Fort Myers devastating entire cities and leaving them completely disheveled, 42,000 linemen have responded to over 2.5 million reported power outages and have already worked to restore 200,000 accounts, the governor's office said. 

First responders are also working to clear roadways and get relief to those who desperately need it.

President Joe Biden ordered federal aid to supplement the state and local recovery efforts. The relief came just a day after DeSantis made the request on Wednesday. The funding will be made available to Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota.

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