Officials are looking into why Lee County, Florida, issued its evacuation order just 24 hours before Hurricane Ian hit, rather than moving sooner to get people to leave their homes, Sen. Rick Scott said Sunday, adding that he also wants more information.
"I think it's something we have to look at to see why it did happen," the Florida Republican, also a former Florida governor, said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union." "The way you have to look at it is, every loss of life, you have to say to yourself, what could you do differently next time so it never happens again?”
Lee County has reported 35 deaths from the storm, which made landfall Wednesday in the Fort Myers area as a strong Category 4 storm. So far, Florida is reporting about 48 deaths from the hurricane but expects that number to climb as recovery efforts continue.
"When I was governor, my goal was nobody died," said Scott. "We can rebuild anything. I don't want anybody to die. I think once we get through this and we do an assessment…as we go through we find out, there are things we can do better."
The storm also ended up making landfall again in North Carolina and South Carolina this weekend.
Scott said he's seen many storms in his time in Florida, but Ian was "really bad."
"Unfortunately, we've lost a lot of people in this storm and your heart goes out to them," Scott said. "People that have gone through this, they have nothing. Their home is gone. The power is not on. They don't have water. They need help. So I know everybody is working hard."
He said he's been touring the flood-hit areas and talking with first responders, and "everyone is helping."
"There's a lot of need right now, especially in places like Lee, the Fort Myers area," he said. "I was in Kissimmee yesterday and there are areas you never think would flood that have flooded."
But still, "we can't bring people back," said Scott. "I think that everybody in every one of these emergency operations centers has to say to themselves, okay, what do we do to make sure we don't lose a life and what can we do for mitigation? It's something we have to look at."
A Lee County commissioner told CNN, after the storm, that deaths occurred because "people get complacent" and he believes people had plenty of time to evacuate.
"Well, I tell everybody, you're always responsible for your safety," said Scott. "What I try to do as governor is try to tell people what their risks were and get people to think about, this is not just your life, it's your family's life. Don't put first responders in harm's way."
When asked about Gov. Ron DeSantis' performance in responding to the hurricane, Scott said that he sees everyone working hard, including sheriff's departments, fire and rescue, the Red Cross, FEMA, and more.
"Everything I'm seeing is people are working their butts off," he said."I'm scared to death that people haven't been rescued yet because as of this morning there are still people to go. What I'm seeing is everybody is working their tail off."
When asked again if that was because of DeSantis' leadership, Scott responded that it takes "everybody," including federal, state, and local leadership to get this done. I'm appreciative that everybody cares about all these people and appreciate that everybody is working hard."
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