Wes Allen Jr., from left, sits with his father, Wes, his sister, Alison and his mother, Vicki, outside their room at a damaged motel, Oct. 16, 2018, in Panama City, Fla., where many residents continue to live in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Ma
Wes Allen Jr., from left, sits with his father, Wes, his sister, Alison and his mother, Vicki, outside their room at a damaged motel, Oct. 16, 2018, in Panama City, Fla., where many residents continue to live in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Ma

Almost a week after Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey said two more deaths had been confirmed in the small seaside town. 

Cathey said Tuesday that the victims were a man and a woman who lived in separate homes and had not evacuated. He did not give the victims' names or say how they died.

The announcement brought to 12 the number of people killed in Bay County, which includes Mexico Beach and another hard-hit town, Panama City.

The county took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael, one of the most intense hurricanes to ever hit the United States.

According to the Associated Press, the storm death toll stood at 16 in Florida and 10 combined in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.

Life in the hard-hit areas improved drastically as widespread cellphone service returned Tuesday for the first time since the storm.

Residents began to return to the devastated town in search of anything that could help them rebuild their lives.

"We really don't know our plan. We just came to take a first look of the house, analyze and maybe come up with a long-term plan, hopefully," Joseph Bran of Mexico Beach said as he searched through the debris of his home.

Another Mexico Beach resident looked on the bright side. "I love it here, the sunset is beautiful, and the Gulf of Mexico got the best fishes of the world," Scott Collins said.

Cristina Caicedo Smit of VOA's Latin American service contributed to this report.