Remains of woman missing since hurricane Ian found on Fort Myers beach as death toll rises

Remains of woman missing since hurricane Ian found on Fort Myers beach as death toll rises

Remains of woman missing since hurricane Ian found on Fort Myers beach as death toll rises

The remains of a missing Florida woman Hurricane Ian destroyed her home in September have been identified, the sheriff said on Thursday.

Workers clearing debris at the hard-hit Fort Myers Beach discovered the remains of 82-year-old Ilonka Knes earlier this week in a thicket of mangroves, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said at a news conference. Marceno said that “these areas are impassable to boats and not visible from the air.”

Knes has been positively identified from dental records, and authorities say she drowned. The remains of her husband, 81-year-old Robert Knes, were found shortly after the storm hit.

“She was one of two people still missing after Hurricane Ian,” Marceno said. “I hope this discovery can bring some closure to the family.”

The sheriff said the second person missing in Lee County since the hurricane made landfall on September 28 is 72-year-old James Hurst. Hurst told his family that he would weather the storm on his sailboat off Fort Myers Beach, but nothing has been heard from him.

MPs responded to 4,866 health checks after the storm, CBS affiliate WINK-TV reported. Initially, the sheriff’s office was looking for three missing persons, but now only Hurst is still unknown.

Prior to the discovery of Knes’s remains, the Florida Examinations Board reported 145 confirmed deaths in the state on Tuesday from Hurricane Ian. That would add to that total.

Five people also died in North Carolina, one in Virginia and three in Cuba, authorities said.

With property damage that has made homes uninhabitable and displaced thousands of residents, people across the state are grappling with environmental hazards that can pose serious health risks.

In Lee County, officials say storm surges and subsequent flooding have led to a surge in potentially fatal infections from Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterial species found in warm, brackish water that typically comes into contact with humans through raw or undercooked seafood. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can also enter the body through cuts and other open wounds and can cause severe skin infections that can be life-threatening.

Vibrio vulnificus is informally described as a “carnivorous” bacterium because it is primary infections skin can quickly develop into necrotizing fasciitis, a rare condition that causes tissue to break down and sometimes requires amputation to prevent further spread.

Emily Mae Czachor contributed to this report.

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