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Hurricane Ian death toll rises

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At least 23 people in Florida have been killed by Hurricane Ian, state officials said Friday.

The actual death toll from the powerful Category 4 storm that devastated parts of the state could be higher.

The number released by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission has been confirmed to be related to the storm following autopsies. Most of the 23 drowned.

Local officials have reported other deaths from the hurricane that have not yet been confirmed by the medical inquiry committee Friday night.

According to an NBC News tally of officials’ reports, there have been 34 deaths in Florida.

Of the confirmed storm-related deaths, 12 were in Lee County, where the hurricane made landfall around 3 p.m. Wednesday with 150 mph winds.

The people who died in Lee County ranged in age from 50 to 92, according to the state. A woman who drowned was found floating in seven feet of water, the Medical Investigators Committee said.

In addition to the deaths in Lee County, four people died in Volusia County on the Atlantic coast, according to the commission. One was a 68-year-old woman who was swept into the ocean by a wave on Thursday.

According to the commission, three people drowned in Collier County, south of Lee County.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Division, said on Friday that first responders conducted a search to find obvious victims and people in need of rescue, then returned for more extensive searches.

More than 1.6 million electricity customers in Florida were without power on Friday, and utilities said some areas could experience extended power outages due to the devastation.

Four people have died on Sanibel Island, south of where the hurricane made landfall, Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza said Friday. It was not clear whether they were included in the state census.

The island was hit by a storm surge of between 8 and 15 feet, he said after touring the community earlier in the day.

“We were all humbled by the amount of devastation we saw across the island,” Souza said.

Hurricane Ian is one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded to hit the United States. It then moved across the Atlantic and weakened, hitting South Carolina on Friday as a Category 1 storm.

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