(FORT MYERS, Fla.) — The Florida barrier islands were hit the worst by Hurricane Ian as teams are still working to survey the damage and conduct search and rescues.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy spoke with ABC News Live’s Linsey Davis Tuesday night to discuss the latest updates.
ABC NEWS LIVE: What is going on the ground right now? What’s the first step in recovery at this point?
RAY MURPHY: Well, the first step, of course, is finishing this search and rescue. As soon as they get done with that, we can go in and start hauling off the debris and getting our utilities back up and so forth. So, there’s a lot else going on simultaneously with the search and rescue.
ABC NEWS LIVE: [I’m] curious to know what the short-term plan is with regard to two children who need to go back to school and stay local in order to do that, potentially?
MURPHY: Our local school on the beach was destroyed as the other schools on the barrier islands were. So, I imagine the school district of Lee County will be determining where these children will be taken off the island and put into schools. I imagine that’ll be close to where they’ve been evacuated, too, because they certainly won’t be able to go to the schools that are here.
ABC NEWS LIVE: And what’s the long-term plan at this point?
MURPHY: Well, the long-term plan is to this is to rebuild our facilities. But as you say that that is long term, it’s going to take some time. But step by step, we have to clear the island first, get all the debris off the island, and then whoever can repair, make remedial repairs to their places and get back in can do that. Although there won’t be too many of them. There will be there’s going to be a lot of major repairs going on. Nobody was spared this storm. Every structure on the island. So, there’s going to be a big, big job ahead of us. But we’re up to the task. And I look forward to the challenge of it.
ABC NEWS LIVE: When you say there is a big job ahead, where does the money come from to rebuild, to tear down, to restore what the town is lost?
MURPHY: I’m sure in the short term, they’ll be there’ll be FEMA funds available and hopefully everybody had insurance on their properties that they’ll be able to make claims on to rebuild or they won’t. Or people may decide that’s one hurricane too much for me.
ABC NEWS LIVE: President Joe Biden is expected to visit Florida tomorrow. If you get a chance to talk to the president, what do you think your message will be to him?
MURPHY: Well, I’ll first of all, express my gratitude for coming down. And my message will be, so, President Biden, we can use all the help from the federal government.
We’re going to need assistance from our partners on the federal level. And I think I can count on the president to help us out down here.
ABC NEWS LIVE: And lastly mayor, when you envision the future, how do you see Fort Myers Beach now?
MURPHY: Well, I envision it with the rebuilds. People building up to today’s codes and the building stock being so much better. You can still have the same type of architecture and beachy cottages and all that sort of thing, but you just have to build them strong. All of the newer houses that have been built on the beach over the years, all the concrete homes, they did exactly what they were supposed to do. The water rushed through the bottom, blew it out, and the houses remain standing.
So that’s how the beach, any barrier islands for that matter, has to rebuild. If you’re going to live on the coastal barrier island, you have to build. You have to build so the buildings will stand. And so, I foresee a great future for the beach. Know people will always want to come to beachfront property and there’s a certain amount of the population, no matter what happens, they’ll come back to barrier islands. And so, I see a bright future, actually, and I look forward to seeing it happen.
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