Posted BY: RM | NwoReport

The confirmed death toll of Hurricane Ian has risen to 52, with the majority concentrated in a Florida county that is facing criticism for delaying its evacuation warning.

In Lee County, home to Fort Myers and the epicenter of the hurricane’s devastation on Florida’s Gulf Coast, there were 35 deaths after county officials waited a day longer than other nearby areas to issue evacuation orders.

Lee County did not issue a mandatory evacuation until Tuesday morning, just over 24 hours before the storm made landfall, with officials there telling the New York Times that they postponed the order due to earlier forecasts that showed the storm heading further north. 

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno confirmed the latest casualty report on Saturday, saying that search and rescue operations are still taking place throughout the county and the rest of the Sunshine State following Ian’s devastation. 

‘Today, we’ve had over 600 to 700 rescues of people that are in need,’ Marceno said. ‘During this difficult time, we’re at about 35 deaths, unfortunately. It’s with a heavy heart that I say that number.’ 

The sheriff added: ‘Last night I just sat there by myself thinking about the devastation, looking through pictures, and I’ll tell you it brought tears to my eyes. We are going to work harder and we are going to be stronger than ever.’

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