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Deaths from Hurricane Michael at 31; power nearly fully restored

By Clyde Hughes
Hurricane Michael damage in Florida
From left to right, Spc. Sean Westmoreland, Spc. Herbert Joyner, and Pfc. Jeremy Grant, from the 153rd Charlie Troop in Tallahassee, hang the American flag on a 4x4 of debris after Hurricane Michael hit in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Saturday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The death toll from Hurricane Michael keeps going up. Officials say now at least 31 people have died from a storm-related event.

At least 21 died in Florida, six in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia -- all connected to the storm that hit northeast Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm last week, The Weather Channel reported Wednesday.

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As many as 1,300 people in the Florida Panhandle are also unaccounted for, a rescue group said Tuesday. Damaged cellphone towers and downed power lines have slowed the search, officials said.

In hard-hit Mexico Beach, Fla., though, officials said the number of missing has dropped "significantly" in recent days.

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"Unfortunately, there are going to more fatalities than people want to admit," Florida Rep. Halsey Beshears told The Weather Channel. "If you stayed in Mexico Beach, there's no way you could have survived. I think more fatalities are going to show up every day."

Authorities said some of the missing may still be trapped in buildings or debris, or may simply have no means to communicate.

"We're going to go as long as possible," Florida medical examiner Dr. Jay M. Radtke told The New York Time. "In a storm like this with a huge surge, it's always a possibility that some people may have been swept out to sea. But we're not going to go the easy way and just say that happened. We're going to try."

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Officials in Tallahassee, Fla., said Wednesday electricity is nearly fully restored. Fewer than 1,000 are still without power. The storm initially knocked out power to 97 percent of residents.

Talquin Electric, which powers Florida's Gasden, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties, said 75 percent of its customers have power back. The company said nearly 12,700 of 52,000 customers still don't have power.

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