Trump tells Hurricane Laura emergency responders to sell his autograph on eBay: 'You'll get $10,000'

President surveys damage after storm sweeps through Louisiana leaving 16 people dead and hundreds of thousands without power or water

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Sunday 30 August 2020 14:45
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Trump tell Hurricane Laura emergency workers to sell autograph on eBay
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President Donald Trump travelled to Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Saturday to inspect damage from Hurricane Laura and attend a briefing on the impact of the disaster and the federal response.

After taking questions from reporters, the president began signing autographs for some of those in attendance, quipping that they could sell them on eBay that night for $10,000.

After being asked to sign one autograph, Mr Trump sits down and calls over to a group of people near by, saying: "Come here fellas, get over here. I want a little power."

Handing an autographed piece of paper to one local official he says: "Sell this on eBay tonight, you'll get $10,000." He tells another recipient that he is deliberately not putting his name on as it will be worth more without it.

The visit came on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and there was an unexpected parallel to the calamitous response of the George W Bush administration to that catastrophe.

The president told FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor: “You’ve done a helluva job, Pete”, a remark reminiscent of President Bush telling the 2005 head of FEMA, Michael Brown: “Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job,” despite the dire situation that had unfolded in New Orleans.

Thankfully, the parallels to Katrina end there. While Hurricane Laura was much stronger with wind speeds of 150mph — a Category 4 versus Katrina’s Category 3 — the expected storm surge of up to 20 feet did not materialise. The nine feet surge that did strike the Gulf Coast was still highly damaging.

The death toll of the two storms differs greatly as Laura missed more densely populated areas. At present 16 people are confirmed dead; more than half died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the unsafe operation of mobile generators in the aftermath of the storm.

The first four deaths, including a 14-year-old girl, were caused by trees falling on houses. In comparison, more than 1,800 people died in the wake of Katrina.

Early damage estimates are between $25bn to $30bn, according to analysis by AccuWeather. Katrina holds the record for the most costly hurricane disaster, totalling $160bn after it submerged 80 per cent of New Orleans.

With Laura, the numbers are still bleak. At least 8,000 homes were destroyed in the hurricane, 14,000 people sought shelter, and more than 500,000 consumers are still without power. At the peak of the outage that number was over 900,000 across three states.

Earlier in the day President Trump met first responders and search and rescue groups at a supply warehouse, and joined in with a prayer led by a local pastor.

He toured a heavily damaged neighbourhood accompanied by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and acting secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.

They observed the National Guard cutting up downed trees before attending the briefing at a local firehouse.

At the meeting the president thanked local officials and first responders and noted that FEMA has already supplied 2.6 million litres of water and 1.4 million meals.

President Trump briefly stopped at Cougar Stadium to greet 200 National Guard members who had assembled there in formation, before he travelled on to Orange, Texas, to survey the damage there.

He was met by Governor Greg Abbott after a short flight in a small group of Osprey helicopters. The president was returning to Lake Charles to be flown back to Washington, DC, later on Saturday evening.

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