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Isabel death toll creeps higher

Fallen trees, drowning, carbon monoxide killed most victims

Diane Wilkens and her daughter Allie, 2, wait near a Red Cross aid station with food and bottled water Monday in Hampton, Virginia.
Diane Wilkens and her daughter Allie, 2, wait near a Red Cross aid station with food and bottled water Monday in Hampton, Virginia.

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(CNN) -- At least 40 deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Isabel and its devastating aftermath, as about 1 million customers still were out of power in areas hit by the storm that changed the landscape of North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The human toll was highest in Virginia, where at least 23 of the fatalities took place.

President Bush was in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday being briefed on damage and recovery efforts and to tour an emergency operations center.

"We have a lot of work to do. We're going to keep working hard to get electricity up and running," he told disaster relief workers, according to Reuters.

The latest casualties to be attributed to Isabel were reported by Virginia officials. According to Bob Spieldenner of the state's Department of Emergency Management, the most recent deaths included that of a depressed man who told his family he was upset by the storm and committed suicide.

Also in Virginia, a man died of a heart attack while chopping a fallen tree; the driver of a car drowned when the vehicle was submerged in floodwaters; and a woman fell down the stairs in her home -- which had lost its power -- and broke her neck.

Most storm-related deaths -- 10 -- were due to fallen trees. Drowning caused nine fatalities and carbon monoxide poisoning killed eight.

In addition to the 23 in Virginia, Isabel also killed eight people in Maryland, three people in North Carolina, two each in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and one each in New York and Rhode Island. In at least two cases -- in Pennsylvania and in Maryland -- carbon monoxide poisoning apparently originated in improperly ventilated generators in areas affected by power outages.

Joe Frank, mayor of Newport News, Virginia, was critical of the response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and said the agency told him it was "working on it" when he asked for help.

"I've told them that I can't feed people while they're working on it," Frank said. "I've told them we can't relieve the police officers from their traffic-management responsibilities while they're working on it. I've told them I can't provide ice to preserve food while they're working on it."

Frank said he needed "dates when we can expect something to happen so we can plan.

And they said, 'We appreciate that, and we're working on it,' " he said.

FEMA Director Michael Brown told CNN that he found it hard to believe the agency hadn't responded efficiently.

"We are meeting every request that we get from the state," Brown said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"I just find it difficult to believe that we're not meeting a need if that need has been articulated to us. ... I think that must be getting lost in the chain of command there."

Bush has declared major disaster areas in Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware and Washington, D.C., making those areas eligible for federal disaster-relief funds.


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