Thursday 19 October 2017

Donald Trump visits Florida to see Hurricane Irma devastation

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive back at the White House in Washington after their trip to view storm damage in Florida, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive back at the White House in Washington after their trip to view storm damage in Florida, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A news report about U.S. President Donald Trump's relationship with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) plays on a television as he speaks to reporters in the press cabin aboard Air Force One on his way to Washington after viewing damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida, U.S. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump greets people as he arrives to view Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in Naples, Florida, U.S. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a banana as he and First Lady Melania Trump (2nd R) help distribute food to Hurricane Irma victims in Naples, Florida, U.S. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Catherine Lucey and Ken Thomas

President Donald Trump has toured areas of Florida devastated by Hurricane Irma and praised the federal and state recovery effort.

 

Mr Trump, who was in and out of the state in less than three hours, got an aerial view of water-deluged homes along Florida's south-western coast from his helicopter, then drove in his motorcade along streets lined with felled trees, broken traffic lights and shuttered stores on his way to a mobile home community hit hard by the storm.

Walking along a street in Naples Estates with his wife, Melania, the president encountered piles of soggy furniture heaped on front porches, and residents who were happy to get a presidential visit.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump (R) and President Donald Trump hand out sandwiches to Hurricane Irma victims during their tour of storm recovery efforts in Naples, Florida, U.S. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump (R) and President Donald Trump hand out sandwiches to Hurricane Irma victims during their tour of storm recovery efforts in Naples, Florida, U.S. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

"We are there for you 100%," Mr Trump said before donning gloves and helping to hand out sandwiches to local residents. "I'll be back here numerous times. This is a state that I know very well."

Mr Trump earlier met with federal and state leaders in Fort Myers, where he was brimming with enthusiasm for the state and federal response effort.

"It's a team like very few people have seen," he said. Quoting Governor Rick Scott's praise for the federal government's responsiveness, Mr Trump added: "As Rick said, we have been very, very fast, and we had to be."

The president could not resist injecting a political flavour into his visit, telling reporters in Fort Myers that he was hopeful that Mr Scott, a two-term Republican, would run for the Senate, where Democrat Bill Nelson is up for re-election next year.

"I don't know what he's going to do. But I know at a certain point it ends for you and we can't let it end. So I hope he runs for the Senate," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump's visit offered him the chance to see how people are coping with Irma's aftermath and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding.

Many Florida residents remain swamped and without electricity. Nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses were still without power on Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence, who joined Mr Trump on the trip, promised Floridians: "We're with you today. We're going to be with you tomorrow and we're going to be with you until Florida rebuilds bigger and better than ever before."

Mr Trump's trip to Florida was his third in less than three weeks to the storm-ravaged South.

After Harvey struck Texas, Mr Trump drew criticism for having minimal interaction with residents during his first trip in late August. He saw little damage and offered few expressions of concern.

On his second visit, to Texas and Louisiana, he was more hands-on. He toured a Houston shelter housing hundreds of displaced people and walked streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions.

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