‘Apocalyptic:’ Florida town demolished by Hurricane Michael

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A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin aircrew from Air Station Miami assesses the damage of Mexico Beach, Florida, from Hurricane Michael, on October 11, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / US COAST GUARD / COLIN HUNT)
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A man walks through the debris left in a street next to his home after Hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 11, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
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A bathtub blown out of a home is seen on the ground after hurricane Michael passed through the area on October 11, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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‘Apocalyptic:’ Florida town demolished by Hurricane Michael

  • Drone footage of Mexico Beach showed a stunning landscape of devastation
  • Numerous homes in this resort town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations

MEXICO BEACH, Florida: The small Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida.
Now it lies in splinters.
Hit head-on by Hurricane Michael, numerous homes in this resort town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off.
What the 9-foot storm surge didn’t destroy, the 155 mph (250 kph) winds finished off.
Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.
Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend on Thursday. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.
Her home was reduced to crumbled blocks and pieces of floor tile.
“Aggy! Aggy!” McPherson yelled. The only sound that came back was the echo from the half-demolished building and the pounding of the surf.
“Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?” she asked.
As she walked down the street, McPherson pointed out pieces of what had been the woman’s house: “That’s the blade from her ceiling fan. That’s her floor tile.”
Drone footage of Mexico Beach showed a stunning landscape of devastation. Few structures were unscathed.
John Humphress, a storm chaser and drone pilot, arrived around 5 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours after Michael slammed into the coastline. He had one word to describe what he saw: “apocalyptic.”
State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.
A National Guard team went into the area and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the stricken zone on Thursday. The fate of many other residents was unknown, authorities said.
Humphress, who spent the night in his truck on a bridge near Mexico Beach, said he didn’t see anyone dead.
On Thursday, residents who evacuated tried to return.
The Rev. Eddie LaFountain, pastor at First Baptist Church in Mexico Beach, was one of them. He described the place as a “good family resort town” that attracts visitors seeking peace and quiet rather than the spring break-like atmosphere of other communities along the 200-mile Florida Panhandle.
More than a third of the population of Mexico Beach is 65 or older, according to the US Census, and nearly half of the housing is for seasonal or recreational use.
Most of the full-time residents, LaFountain said, have some connection to the hospitality industry. Some operate vacation home rentals, while others work jobs cleaning and maintaining the homes. Others own or work in restaurants, rent out kayaks or run charter fishing boats. LaFountain himself has a lawn-mowing business.
Despite the widespread destruction, LaFountain said he believes most people will rebuild.
“I think the people here have a great heart and a lot of resilience. We call them stubborn and hard-headed. I think they will be back,” LaFountain said in a phone interview while driving back to Mexico Beach.
A Florida hurricane expert said the footage of buildings in Mexico Beach stripped to their concrete foundations was no surprise.
“This is what we expect with storm surge and high wind events,” said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former emergency management chief for the state of Florida.
Florida has some of the most stringent hurricane building codes in the country, but they apply only to new or retrofitted structures.
Mexico Beach is on the west end of what is sometimes called Florida’s Forgotten Coast, so named because it is not heavily developed like many of the state’s other shoreline areas, with their lavish homes and high-rise condos and hotels.
US Route 98 runs right along the coast, where a few beachside restaurants offer oysters and other seafood, cocktails and a view of the Gulf of Mexico.
Other communities along the Forgotten Coast include Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Eastpoint, St. Marks and St. George Island, all places where folks from nearby Tallahassee, Georgia and Alabama like to escape for a quiet weekend.
As Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “Mexico Beach is an old old #Florida town. It’s charm is that it feels like a trip back in time to a place unspoiled by development. I was told this morning that is is ‘gone.’“


At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

Updated 11 min 44 sec ago
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At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least one person is dead and multiple others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands.

Police have not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the shooting that left several people “heavily injured” - the shooter remains at large. Police have erected a white tent over an area where a body appears to be lying next to a tram where the shooting happened, AP reported.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökman Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

The Dutch anti-terror coordinator has raised the threat alert to its highest level around the central Dutch town of Utrecht following the shooting incident on a tram in the city, with the shooter still on the run.

Paramilitary police have increased security at airports, mosques and other vital public infrastructure. Police have also advised schools in the area to keep their doors closed.
Anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 
Dutch police say they are looking for a least one person who might have fled by car.

Spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the government is currently holding crisis talks.

Aalbersberg earlier said on Twitter that he was having “crisis consultations”, adding: “Terrorist motive not excluded. Information not yet full.”

 

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)