TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Officials believe more people may have died from Hurricane Ian in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Sarasota and Polk counties.
At a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said there was one confirmed death in Polk County and 20 more unconfirmed fatalities.
There were 12 unconfirmed deaths in Charlotte County and eight unconfirmed fatalities in Collier County, according to Guthrie.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said two people in the area had died from Hurricane Ian.
They were identified as a 94-year-old man who lived in the Palmer Ranch area, and an 80-year-old woman who lived in north Sarasota.
Officials said both individuals relied on oxygen machines, which were disabled when the storm knocked out power.
Guthrie said the state was still processing findings from a search in hard-hit Lee County. He said a diver with the Coast Guard found what appeared to be human remains inside a home that was under water.
“We do not know exactly how many were in the house,” Guthrie said. “The water was up over the rooftop.”
Guthrie said they won’t know the number of fatalities until the water recedes, and they get special equipment to help them recover the remains.
Guthrie noted death tolls immediately after the storm are unreliable.
“People die in disasters that have nothing to do with the disaster,” Guthrie said. “The medical examiner is the one that makes that determination.”
The medical examiner will be able to determine whether their deaths occurred directly, as a result of storm surge, rising waters, etc., or indirect death in the aftermath of the storm, Guthrie added.