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One of the hardest-hit spots in Florida is Mexico Beach, where Michael crashed ashore. Three additional deaths were reported in Marianna, in Jackson County, Florida, Sheriff Lou Roberts told a news conference on Friday afternoon.

The tally of lives lost across the South stood at 14, including one person found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.

Brock Long, an administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the number of deaths was expected to rise as rescue teams combed through Mexico Beach, Port St Joe and Panama City.

Gulf Power officials said Saturday that some areas of Bay County on Florida's coast could get their power restored in the next two days.

Two out of the three people who were killed in North Carolina died when their vehicle struck a tree that had fallen because of high winds, said Adrienne Jones, deputy director for the McDowell County Emergency Medical Services.

FEMA crews have been using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to push a path through debris to allow rescuers to probe the rubble with specially trained search dogs.

"The wind was really tearing us apart", said retiree Tom Garcia, 60, who was trapped inside his Mexico Beach home as water poured in to waist height.

Flash flooding was also reported in the big North Carolina cities of Charlotte and Raleigh.

State officials have blamed at least five deaths on the storm.

Except for the emergency-911 system, authorities in Bay County, the epicentre of the hurricane disaster, were virtually without telephone or internet service until late in the day on Friday, making communications internally and with the public hard.

About 5,000 USA servicemen were deployed to help with relief and recovery efforts, the Pentagon said, using 100 helicopters and 1,800 high-water vehicles. But "we have to make sure things are safe". "We're doing what we can with the minimal media that we have".

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"We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the loved ones and friends of those killed", Cooper said in a statement.

Residents of Mexico Beach had been under a mandatory evacuation order, but it is believed at least 285 people among a population of 1,000 had stayed behind to ride out the storm. KCC said that almost half of the losses occurred in place in Florida's Bay and Gulf counties.

Locals offered to go to addresses to see if houses had survived or if residents were there. Photo Courtesy The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Albrecht, the Mexico Beach councilwoman, would like to return home, but she says the roads are impassible.

"It's OK if you want to live on the coast or on top of a mountain that sees wildfires or whatever, but you have to build to a higher standard. We're not even close to having discussions on rebuilding yet".

By Friday morning the storm remnants were about 275 miles (445 km) southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts, packing maximum sustained winds of 100 km/h.

Coastal Florida cities have been damaged beyond recognition while homes, businesses, and agriculture have been tattered or flooded from Georgia to Virginia.

Contributors in Florida include Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Panama City, Brendan Farrington in St. Marks, Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, and Jennifer Kay and Freida Frisaro in Miami.

President Donald Trump said he planned to visit Florida and Georgia early next week, tweeting, "We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit - we are with you!" The Coast Guard reported rescuing 129 people.

More than 30 health-care facilities had to be evacuated as Hurricane Michael damaged buildings and knocked out electricity in the Panhandle, state emergency management officials said Friday.

"It was the ideal beach town. Not all of that commercialism", said Dottie Sinclair, 57, a nurse, adding a Subway fast-food restaurant was the only commercial chain. "People will just pack up and leave".


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