Florida cops struggle to stop armed looters as hurricane Michael death toll reaches 33 Leaving a trail of devastation and a rising death toll across the southern coast of US, hurricane Michael has created a fertile ground for armed looters who, despite police efforts, continue to ransack homes and businesses.

A week after the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record slammed the Gulf of Mexico coast, authorities are still unable to fully restore power to affected areas or to manage looters who have been pillaging destroyed buildings. The problem is the most severe along the Florida panhandle, particularly in the cities of Panama City and Mexico Beach which suffered the worst from Michael, a Category 4 storm.

Meanwhile, about 124,500 customers across the Florida Panhandle were still without power on Wednesday morning, state emergency management officials said. In Bay County, around 54 percent remained without electricity, while in Calhoun County, some 98 percent had . The same dire picture is witnessed in Jackson County, where only two percent of customers have electricity. Many homes and businesses in the area are still abandoned as over 1,100 people remained in shelters on Wednesday.

The level of destruction was only matched by the criminal activity of armed looters. Bay County Sheriff‘s office, covering Mexico Beach, Panama City and Lynn Haven, detaining about 10 suspected looters every night ever since the storm made landfall in the area. To defend themselves against unprovoked attacks locals reportedly began spray-painting signs in some parts of the county, reading “looters will be shot.”

So far, the storm has claimed 23 lives in Florida, USA Today , while 10 others perished across Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina which were also hit by Hurricane Michael. The death toll could rise as over 1,000 people remain unaccounted-for. Search and rescue for them continues amid the mass effort to deliver aid to affected communities.

At least 48,000 Florida residents have already applied for disaster from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA spokesman Ruben Brown told Reuters. Over 15,876 single residences were damaged from winds up to 155 mph and a storm surge, with another 4,240 completely destroyed.

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