Monday 12 November 2018

Trump views damage in hurricane-hit Florida

Mexico Beach was nearly wiped off the map in a direct hit from the hurricane and its 155mph winds last week.

Donald and Melania Trump view the damage in Lynn Haven, Florida (Evan Vucci/AP)
Donald and Melania Trump view the damage in Lynn Haven, Florida (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Deb Riechmann and Darlene Superville, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump got a bird’s eye view of Florida communities left in ruins by Hurricane Michael during a helicopter tour of parts of the state.

Mr Trump initially saw uprooted trees and houses with blue sheets covering damaged roofs after his helicopter set off from Eglin Air Force Base, near Valparaiso.

But the severity of the damage worsened significantly as Mr Trump approached Mexico Beach, a town of about 1,000 people that was nearly wiped off the map in a direct hit from the hurricane and its 155mph winds last week.

Many of the houses in Mexico Beach had no roofs.

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Donald and Melania Trump in Lynn Haven (Evan Vucci/AP)

In some cases, only the foundations were left standing.

A water tower lay on its side and 18-wheel lorries were scattered in a car park like a child’s toys.

Mr Trump also saw Tyndall Air Force Base, which was heavily damaged by the storm.

Reporters trailed the president in a separate helicopter.

Mr Trump landed at an airport near Panama City, where telegraph poles bowed towards the ground, pieces of metal roofing were scattered in brush land and pine trees had been uprooted or were snapped off halfway up their straight trunks.

On the drive towards Panama City, he and first lady Melania Trump could see houses smashed by trees, bent billboards and a demolished trailer park.

Power crews were working to restore power.

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Donald and Melania Trump hand out water during a visit to areas affected by Hurricane Michael in Florida (Evan Vucci/AP)

In the nearby city of Lynn Haven, where blue sheets topped many of the homes, Mr Trump walked up to a house where a massive pine tree lay on the front garden next to a palm tree that stood tall.

Repairs were being made to the home, owned by Michael Rollins, who told Mr Trump he rode out the storm.

“I knew I had made my commitment to stay with my animals. I have two dogs and a parrot,” Mr Rollins told Mr Trump.

More than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without electricity as of Sunday, along with about 120,000 in Georgia, where Mr Trump also planned to survey hurricane damage.

People were also grappling with widespread mobile phone outages.

Florida governor Rick Scott greeted Mr Trump upon his arrival at Eglin Air Force Base, and the president immediately praised Mr Scott for an “incredible” storm response.

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Donald and Melania Trump view the damage in Lynn Haven, Florida (Evan Vucci/AP)

“The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible,” Mr Trump told reporters.

With Mr Scott at his side, Mr Trump told him: “You’re a great governor.”

Mr Scott said he has got everything he has asked for from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has spoken with Mr Trump “almost every day”.

“Every time I’ve called, he’s come through,” Mr Scott said of Mr Trump.

Mr Trump tweeted before leaving the White House that he will meet with law enforcement and government officials involved in the massive recovery effort.

He said “maximum effort is taking place, everyone is working very hard. Worst hit in 50 years!”

He tweeted after arriving in Florida that he is “also thinking about our GREAT Alabama farmers and our many friends in North and South Carolina today. We are with you!”

Mr Trump also planned to survey hurricane damage in Georgia on Monday.

The death toll from Michael’s destructive march from Florida through to Virginia stood at 17, with just one confirmed death in Mexico Beach.

Press Association

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