FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the death toll from Hurricane Ian continuing to climb, specially trained search and rescue teams from Maryland and Virginia are working in the hardest-hit area of the storm in Ft. Myers, Florida. At least 109 people have died as a result of the storm and 55 of them were in Ft. Myers.
"I don't think there are words...to describe what's going on for the people that have lost everything," said Maryland Task Force 1 Team Leader Chase Fabrizio.
As most evacuated Ft. Myers ahead of Ian, Maryland Task Force 1 and Virginia Task Force 1 headed toward the hurricane and the storm of chaos that is the recovery after it.
"You run into people that have literally lost everything," said Fabrizio. "And then on top of that, some of these some of these citizens don't have the means to go anywhere else or find a solution to their problem now being homeless or losing their vehicle."
Almost a week after Ian made landfall, both 45-member search-and-rescue teams are still going house to house, standing or not, to search for survivors and those who did not survive.
"Thank goodness we haven't found human remains. That's a good thing," said Captain Rob Clement with Virginia Task Force 1. "We met with a lot of residents today and, you know, they're just happy to see us, to see some kind of contact," after days without power or phone services in many cases Clement said. "I had to tell them that everything's going to be OK ... we're here to help."
"Everyone here is in high spirits," he said of his team, which is made up of members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Services. "This group of people here is a very diverse group of people that love to help. And and we're we're here as long as they want us to stay."
Which means working long days, every day, in the heat.
Neither team knows when they will get to come home, but both said they are happy to stay as long as they are needed.
And we're told they are able carve out some time each day to stay in touch with their families in Maryland and Virginia.