FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rescue workers evacuated stunned survivors on a large barrier island cut off by Hurricane Ian, as the death toll in Florida rose sharply as hundreds of thousands of people were still without power days after the devastating the storm was raging from the southwest coast of the state. to Carolina.

Florida, where nearly four dozen people were reported dead, was the hardest hit by the Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest to hit the US. Flooded roads and washed-out bridges to barrier islands have left many people isolated amid limited cell phone service and a lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity and internet.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that multi-billionaire businessman Elon Musk has provided about 120 Starlink satellites to “help overcome some of the communications challenges.” Starlink, a satellite internet system created by Musk’s SpaceX, will provide high-speed connectivity.

Florida utilities were working to restore power. As of Saturday evening, nearly 1 million homes and businesses were still without power, down from a peak of 2.67 million.

The overall numbers remain unchanged, with the Associated Press reporting that 47 people have died in Florida. ABC News reports that more than 70 have died. According to ABC News, the deaths in Florida broke down as follows:

  • Hendry County 1 (MEC)
  • Lee County 35 (via Sheriff’s Office)
  • Charlotte County 23 (via Sheriff’s Office)
  • Volusia County 5 (MEC)
  • Collier County 3 (MEC)
  • Sarasota County 3 (MEC)
  • Lake County 1 (FHP/MEC)
  • Manatee County 1 (MEC)

More than 1,000 people have been rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwest coast alone, Daniel Hokanson, a four-star general and head of the National Guard, told The Associated Press on a flight to Florida.

In Washington, the White House announced that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Florida on Wednesday. But the brief statement did not reveal details of the planned visit to the state.

The Pine Island Bridge, the largest barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, was destroyed by the storm, leaving it accessible only by boat or air. The Medic Corps, a volunteer group that responds to natural disasters around the world with pilots, paramedics and doctors, went door-to-door asking residents if they wanted to evacuate.

Some were flown out by helicopter and people described the horror of being trapped in their homes as the water continued to rise.

“The water kept hitting the house and we watched, boats, houses – we watched everything go by,” said Joe Conforti, fighting back tears. He said that if it wasn’t for his wife who suggested they stand on the table to avoid the water rising, he wouldn’t have made it: “I started to lose my senses because when the water is in your door and splashes on the door and you see how fast they move, there’s no way you’ll survive it.”

Flooded rivers sometimes became a serious problem for rescue and delivery of goods. The Miakka River washed out on a stretch of Interstate 75, causing the highway to be closed to traffic for a while before officials said it could be reopened later Saturday.

Although swollen rivers are at or near their crest, levels are not expected to drop significantly for several days, National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming said.

Elsewhere, Pauley Island in South Carolina, a beach town about 75 miles (115 kilometers) up the coast from Charleston, was also hard hit. At least half of the island remained without electricity on Saturday.

Eddie Wilder, who has been coming to Pawleys Island for more than six decades, said it was “crazy” to see waves of up to 25 feet (7.6 meters) washing away the famous pier near his home.

“We watched it hit the pier and saw the pier disappear,” he said. “We watched it break down and watched it float by with an American flag.”

Wilder’s house, located 30 feet (9 meters) above the shoreline, remained dry inside.

In North Carolina, the storm knocked down trees and power lines. Two of the state’s four deaths were from storm-related car crashes, while the others included a man who drowned when his truck plunged into a swamp and another who died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in a garage.

At the Port Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers, Florida, storm surge pushed several boats and docks ashore. Charter captain Ryan Kane said his vessel was so badly damaged that he was unable to use it to rescue people, and it will be a long time before he can take clients fishing again.

“There is a hole in the case. Needed water in the engines. Everything needed water,” he said, adding, “You know, boats should be in the water, not in the parking lots.”