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"They don't have nothing": Many in Florida still lack food, running water, electricity after Ian

Ruined clothing, furniture and appliances litter neighborhoods in Florida where Hurricane Ian plowed through last week. Many residents still lack food, running water and electricity in the aftermath of the storm, which was one of the strongest to ever hit the nation. 

"Now with the storm, they don't have nothing," Miriam Ortiz, who runs a Florida food pantry, said about the Fort Myers community.

The Gladiolus Food Pantry in Fort Myers' Harlem Heights neighborhood usually assists about 850 families each month, Ortiz said. Since Friday, the pantry has served at least 1,600 meals. 

Ian made landfall last Wednesday in southwestern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm then raced across the peninsula, went out into the Atlantic Ocean, and made a second landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in South Carolina on Friday. More than 100 people have been reported dead.

Baltzars Lopes said he evacuated his family to the roof at the height of the storm as the home filled with water. 

"I tell everyone just to lay down on the roof, don't move," he recalled. "Because the winds was so high."

Tropical Weather Florida Insurance
Men walk past destroyed homes and debris as they survey damage to other properties, two days after the passage of Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on Sept. 30, 2022. Rebecca Blackwell/AP

The storm, which upended communities with vibrant tourist economies like Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, left many unemployed. 

Sylvester Manjaras worked as a restaurant worker but said he's now looking for any type of job to support his family. Two other women said they spend hours on the phone trying to reach the Federal Emergency Management Agency and unemployment assistance in the wake of the storm.

"I don't have a job," one woman said. "I don't have money. I need money. I need pay bills. I need eat and I need water."

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is set to travel to Florida with President Joe Biden Wednesday as the agency's damage assessment is underway. So far, more than 2.3 million meals and more than 15 million water bottles have been distributed throughout the state, according to officials.

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