Just over a week since Hurricane Ian slammed into the Southwest Florida coast, thousands of people are displaced and struggling to make it through. President Biden toured the damage Wednesday, meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Biden's visit comes as the state is very much still reeling from the storm. Hundreds of thousands remain without power and shelters are full of residents who lost everything.
"Without AC, no lights, no nothing. To find food it's really hard. Basically, we have to find ways to cook. Some of us are burning wood," said Jessica LaMontagne.
#Survivors on the #GulfCoast of #Florida are just beginning to sort through the debris left by #HurricaneIan. Thanks to the support of friends like you, our team is on the ground in #FortMyers, helping where it is needed most.
— Operation Blessing (@operationbless) October 4, 2022
Images continue to emerge showing the widespread nature of the damage. Search and rescue crews are combing through the sprawling disaster zone, still hoping to find survivors. Florida Task Force 2 is on Ft. Myers Beach, crisscrossing a seven-mile stretch of devastation.
"There's a lot of destruction there, a lot of collapsed homes, a lot of debris. A home like this, we would call it, we would go up there to the door, take a look, call out if anybody's home," said Florida Task Force 2 PIO, Capt. Iggy Carroll.
"We have now had more than 2,300 rescues in our urban search and rescue teams, more than 1,000 personnel have gone door-to-door to 79,000 structures to check on occupants," said Gov. DeSantis.
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Stories of heroic rescues by civilians also still coming in. Johnny Lauder swam down a flooded street for 45-minutes to save his 84-year-old mother.
"I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would do it for your mother, anybody's mother, it's just what human beings do," Lauder said.
President Biden toured some of the hardest hit areas, while also meeting with state and local officials, as well as reaching out to victims.
"Jill and I have had you all in our prayers, and I mean that sincerely, and we're here today to tell you that in person. We're thinking about you, and we're not leaving, we're not leaving till this gets done," Biden said Wednesday.
Florida officials praised the Biden administration for side-stepping bureaucratic red tape in order to provide help for residents and first responders. The federal government has committed to cover 100 percent of costs associated with search and rescue, shelter, feeding, and other emergency measures for 60 days, double the amount of time initially pledged.