The full impact of Hurricane Ian is still unknown, but a local official fears the death toll could be in the hundreds.
"While I don't have confirmed numbers, I definitely know fatalities are in the hundreds," Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said during a Thursday appearance on Good Morning America, according to the Fort Meyers News-Press and Tallahassee Democrat.
About an hour later, while speaking with CNN, Marceno clarified that information at this point is still "very preliminary," reported The New York Times.
"I don't know the exact numbers, he added.
"I think you'll have more clarity about that in the next day or so as they're able to go to those locations and determine whether people need services or are able to be rescued," DeSantis said, according to the outlets. "That number put out by Lee is basically an estimate that these people were calling, the water was rising on their home and they may not have ended up getting through."
During the briefing, DeSantis said there were two "unconfirmed" fatalities, and that authorities were still working to determine if those deaths were linked to the storm.
"Our assumption is it likely is, and so basically, FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] will make that assessment and then that will be reported," he said, according to NBC affiliate WFLA-TV.
On Thursday, the Volusia Sheriff's Office said that a 72-year-old man died after going outside during the storm to drain his pool. Police said he was found unresponsive in a canal behind his home and pronounced dead at the hospital.
Joe Raedle/Getty Damage in Fort Myers after Hurricane Ian passed through
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During Marceno's GMA appearance, the sheriff said he was unable to "give a true assessment" of the death toll, according to the News-Press, but that there were "thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued."
"This is a life-changing event for all of us. We tracked that storm up the coast of Florida, it was very unpredictable," Marceno said, according to ABC News. "It's a real, real rough road ahead."
Federal assistance is on the way, with nine counties receiving major disaster declarations from President Joe Biden, according to the Sentinel: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota.
At Thursday's press conference, DeSantis said Hurricane Ian, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, has had a "historic" impact on the state of Florida, calling it "a 500-year flood event," per the Orlando Sentinel.
"We've never seen a flood event like this," he told reporters. "We've never seen a storm surge of this magnitude."