The death toll rose to at least 12 Thursday as the Michigan National Guard moved into the Detroit area to help sort through the destruction wreaked by Wednesday’s severe summer storms.
Gov. John Engler, who toured stricken areas early Thursday, proclaimed a disaster in Detroit and Wayne County at about noon and ordered the Michigan National Guard to participate in the cleanup. Engler also requested help from the Federal Emergency Management Area and said he expected a quick disaster declaration and with it some financial help from Washington.
“I think everything is being done that can be,” he said. Accurate damage estimates were not immediately available, but Engler said it is “extensive. It’s going to be costly.”
An initial National Guard contingent, including about two dozen officers, eight 5-ton trucks and three front-end loaders, was due in the area by afternoon.
As the storms ripped from west to east across the area between 2 and 3 p.m. PDT Wednesday, five people died in Grosse Pointe Farms when a park pavilion they were in ripped free from its foundation and hurled into Lake St. Clair. A woman was crushed to death by her van in Detroit; another woman was killed by a falling tree limb near Flint, and in Detroit, one man was killed by a tree Wednesday and another was electrocuted while mowing grass on Thursday.
In Hamtramck, Mich., Jerry Dizon had a fatal heart attack Wednesday while trying to clear a fallen tree at his home on St Aubin. He is believed to have been in his 70s.
Oakland County reported two deaths. A woman was killed at one of two mobile home parks savaged by the storms, and a man was electrocuted in Berkley while trying to pump out his flooded basement.
About 200,000 homes or business were still without electricity Thursday, and people were frantically buying ice to save what was in their refrigerators.
“We’re selling dry ice, block ice, regular ice, any ice,” said Steve Yaldo, owner of the Union Ice Co. in Redford Township. “… We are trying to ration it out a little to help everybody out as much as we can.”
Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer declared a state of emergency in the city and called in off-duty police officers. Emergencies also were declared for Wayne and Saginaw counties, and the cities of Hamtramck and Highland Park.
Engler said the widespread damage in heavily populated areas “dwarfs anything that’s happened in recent years” in Michigan.
“We had tragic loss of life … Mother Nature needs to be treated seriously.”
There were reports of scattered looting Wednesday night in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. Archer vowed that Detroit judges would deal harshly with anyone caught trying to take such advantage of the disaster.
Detroit Police Inspector Joseph Macksoud said looting was halted along one street when police scattered roving bands. He said there were about three arrests for looting.
In the worst incident Wednesday, three children and two women were killed when winds raged through Pier Park in Grosse Pointe Farms. St. John Hospital reported nine others injured. Eight remained in the hospital Thursday in good condition.
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