Ian’s death toll rises as massive rescue efforts continue in SWFL

Published: September 30, 2022 4:49 PM EDT

Lee County Sherrif officials said Friday that the death toll has reached 21 people as search and rescue teams continue to search for survivors.

Local and out-of-state first responders confirmed more than 700 rescues. Search teams continue to search for more survivors who may have been trapped by flooding.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno confirmed that five deaths were not storm-related.

“Our hearts go out to friends & family who have lost their loved ones in this tragic storm,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “We are here for you & we will continue to get through this together.”

President Joe Biden said Thursday that “this could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history” and that “we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”

The deadliest hurricane in Florida history was the September 1928 storm, which caused 2,500 to 2,800 deaths after it hit West Palm Beach and flooded communities around Lake Okeechobee.

You can see before and after photos of Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel Island and other SWFL locations:

The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.