US President Donald Trump got a bird’s-eye view Monday of communities left in ruins by Hurricane Michael during a nearly hour-long helicopter tour of portions of the Florida Panhandle.
Mr Trump initially saw uprooted trees and houses with blue tarps covering damaged roofs after his helicopter lifted from Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso. But the severity of the damage worsened significantly as the US President approached Mexico Beach, a town of about 1000 people that was nearly wiped off the map in a direct hit from the hurricane and its 250km/ph winds last week.
Many of the houses in Mexico Beach had no roofs with only the foundations left standing, while a toppled water tower lay on its side and semi-trailers 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.
At the end of the tour, Mr Trump landed at an airport near Panama City, where electricity poles bowed toward 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 toward Panama City, the president could see houses smashed by trees, bent billboards and a demolished trailer park. Power crews were working to restore power.
A Palm Beach County Fire Rescue strike team arrived in the Florida Panhandle on Monday, October 15, to help with search and rescue efforts after Hurricane Michael. The strike team was made up of engines and crews from Delray Beach, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, and Boca Raton, officials said. Footage showed their departure late on Sunday and their arrival in the hurricane-damaged town of Marianna on Monday morning. Credit: Palm Beach County Fire Rescue via Storyful
Palm Beach County Rescuers Arrive in Panhandle for Post-Michael Recovery
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.
Florida Governor Rick Scott greeted Mr and Mrs Trump upon their arrival at Eglin Air Force Base, and Mr Trump immediately praised Governor Scott for an “incredible” storm response. “The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible,” Mr Trump told reporters.
With Scott at his side, Mr Trump told him: “You’re a great governor.”
Gov. Scott returned the praise, saying he’s gotten everything he’s asked for from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying he’d spoken with Mr Trump “almost every day.” “Every time I’ve called, he’s come through,” Mr Scott said.
Mr Trump tweeted before leaving the White House accompanied by his wife, Melania, that he would meet with police and government officials aiding 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’s “also thinking about our GREAT Alabama farmers and our many friends in North and South Carolina today. We are with you!”
Mr Trump was also surveying hurricane damage in Georgia before returning to the White House later 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.
Originally published as Trumps visit hurricane-ravaged Florida