IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Damage to Sanibel island is 'biblical,' Florida island now cut off from mainland, official says

“I’ve never seen anything like this," said Sanibel's city manager, Dana Souza.

An official in Sanibel, Florida, shared an update on how Hurricane Ian has devastated his small island community. 

“The damage is catastrophic and it is biblical,” Dana Souza, Sanibel’s city manager, told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Friday. “I’ve never seen anything like this … residents who have lived on Sanibel for many, many years, just can’t even understand the damage that we’ve experienced.”

Sanibel, home to about 6,300 people, is located on Sanibel Island off the west coast of Florida, just south of Fort Myers

The causeway connecting the island to the mainland was severely damaged by the storm, meaning the island is now only reachable by boat.

Image: Hurricane Ian Slams Into West Coast Of Florida
In this photo from Sept. 29, large parts of Sanibel Causeway have been washed away.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

“Obviously our main access to the island has been cut off,” Souza said. “There’s been five breaches to the causeway, and so that’s significant work that has to be undertaken.”

Souza said officials are “still working to get our crews, both search-and rescue-crews and then our first initial cleanup crews, onto the island by boat,” adding that they have “limited equipment that’s on the island.”

He also said “a number of volunteers” have provided boats, and are helping shuttle people to and from the mainland.

While many people are known to have survived the storm, Souza says officials are still doing welfare checks on some addresses and continuing search-and-rescue operations. 

He shared one story he heard about an elderly couple living near the coast who “had to climb to the highest point of their house in order to stay safe from the rising waters.” He says the couple was removed from the island yesterday by a family member.

Hurricane Ian Slams Into West Coast Of Florida
An aerial photo from Sept. 29 shows Sanibel homes damaged by Hurricane Ian.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

In the aftermath of the storm, Souza said his team is “trying to stay focused on our immediate needs” while at the same time thinking about the next steps in the recovery process.

“We know that people have been through a traumatic experience here,” he said, “And they just want to get off the island and be safe.”

As of Thursday evening, at least a dozen people across Florida were confirmed to have died in the hurricane, which is headed toward South Carolina, according to NBC News.