Trump visits SWFL, tours Irma damage, meets with victims

NAPLES, Fla. President Donald Trump got a firsthand look Thursday at the devastation left by Hurricane Irma in Southwest Florida.

The president arrived Thursday morning in Air Force One at Southwest Florida International Airport, where he was greeted by Vice President Mike Pence, who’d flown in minutes earlier, Gov. Rick Scott and other officials.

Below is an archived livestream of the president’s arrival:

“Historically there’s never been anything like this,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House. “But the United States Coast Guard, FEMA, working along with Gov. (Rick) Scott, they’ve really done an amazing job,” adding that “power is being turned on rapidly,” he said.

Still, hundreds of thousands in Southwest Florida are without power.

Trump spoke privately with local law enforcement, and took particular interest in the Fort Myers Police Department’s use of a former military vehicle for hurricane response.

“We’re still using it today for high-water rescues, and he was really happy to hear that,” Fort Myers police Lt. Jay Rodriguez said.

Trump and Pence flew by helicopter to Naples, where they handed out sandwiches and shook hands with people at Naples Estates, a mobile home community for people 55 and older. Around them were piles of debris, including tall piles of siding, furniture and branches.

Below is a pool photo showing Trump’s view from the helicopter:

Most people at Naples Estates thanked the president. One man yelled, “Make America Great Again!” Another told Trump that he “married well.”Most thanked them. One man yelled, “Make America Great Again!”

Another told Trump that he “married well.” Trump pledged to be “there for you 100 percent.”

Below is an archived livestream of the visit to Naples Estates:

For Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the visit Thursday to Naples and Fort Myers offered the chance to see how people were coping and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency has responded.

After Harvey struck Texas, 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 walking streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions.

The president monitored Irma over this past weekend from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Nearly half of Florida was engulfed by Irma, which left flooded streets, damaged homes and displaced residents in its wake. Many Southwest Florida communities are still cleaning up or without power or air conditioning.

“In many cases, they lost their homes, and it’s a tough situation,” Trump said after landing at Southwest Florida International Airport.

Widespread power outages led to long lines outside of the relatively few stores, gas stations and restaurants that had reopened.

The situation was even worse to the south in Collier County. Days after Irma passed, almost 80 percent of homes and businesses were still without electricity, and floodwaters still covered some communities entirely.

As of Thursday morning, the number of homes and businesses without electricity in Florida was 2.69 million. That’s 25.6 percent of all customers in the state.

 

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.