Search teams comb debris for victims of deadly Hurricane Michael

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Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the continental United States, slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, unleashing a trail of destruction across 321km that splintered houses, peeled off roofs and stirred up a terrifying surge of seawater that submerged entire neighbourhoods and sent boats careening down city streets.

By 5 a.m., Michael's eye was about 45 miles (72 kilometres) west of Augusta, Georgia, packing top winds of 50 mph (80 kph) and moving at 21 mph (33 kph) into SC, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The center of the storm was located over Augusta, Georgia, moving north rapidly at more than 20 miles per hour in a north / northeast heading.

The official said that after Hurricane Irma in September 2017, a field hospital was required in the Florida Keys for a year, and similar situations may be required with Michael.

The Associated Press reported that across Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas, more than 800,000 customers were without power as of Thursday morning. "This is one of the most powerful storms". Gulf and Franklin counties, which are on the coast, and Holmes County, which is to the north, were all more than 90 percent without power.

The storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach, about 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Panama City.

Hurricane Michael has has devastated Florida, with rows of homes smashed to pieces and flash flooding in hurricane-weary parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Tornadoes, unsafe winds and more flooding are possible in numerous same areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

The injured in Florida were taken to hospitals in Tallahassee, with some hurt after the storm by breaking tree limbs and falls, said Allison Castillo, director of emergency services at the city's Capital Regional Medical Center.

Michael is shaking up the upcoming election in the battleground state of Florida.

Search teams - working by air, boat and on the ground - have entered Panama City, Mexico Beach, Alligator Point, Eastpoint, St. George Island and Apalachicola. The fate of about 280 residents who authorities said ignored evacuation orders was unknown. Homes were split open by fallen trees.

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But fears lingered that some failed to heed the calls to get out of Michael's way as the hard-charging storm began speeding north over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Wind damage was also evident.

In Cuba, it dropped more than 10 inches (27 centimetres) of rain in places, flooding fields, damaging roads, knocking out power and destroying some homes in the western province of Pinar del Rio.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree was the first of "4 storm-related fatalities" announced by the Gadsden County Sheriff's office.

It killed at least 12 people in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, officials said.

In all, about 2,500 of the town's 3,500 residents stayed put, with many caught off guard by the storm's rapid escalation.

FEMA head Brock Long acknowledged that evacuation efforts in the area were slow compared with how fast the hurricane intensified.

- 919 millibars minimum pressure in the eye, the third most intense hurricane landfall in the U.S. in recorded history. The Florida National Guard has over 4,000 more Guard members available for deployment, Scott said.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday: "We are very well prepared for the incoming hurricane".

On the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, category 4 includes winds of up to 156mph with possible severe damage to even well-built homes and trees being felled.

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