Donald Trump visits Florida as death tolls rise for both Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

When asked about climate change, Mr Trump said 'we've seen bigger storms' in the early 1900s

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Friday 15 September 2017 02:39 BST
Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, gestures as he answers questions while departing the White House for Florida on 14 September 2017
Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, gestures as he answers questions while departing the White House for Florida on 14 September 2017 (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As the Florida death toll from Hurricane Irma was said to have reached more than 30 across three states, President Donald Trump landed in the state for his first visit since the storm passed through and discussed border security and immigration while he was there.

He visited Fort Myers and Naples, Florida to meet with survivors and be briefed on relief efforts.

Mr Trump recently visited Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey where 82 people died according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

The state is waiting on confirmation from local officials to make sure the deaths are storm-related.

Mr Trump said in Florida that “while people unfortunately passed, it was such a small number that nobody would have -- people thought thousands and thousands of people may have their lives ended. And the number is a very small number which is a great tribute to you.”

Irma caused 24 deaths in the state, for a total of 31 across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Eight elderly people died in a Hollywood, Florida nursing home as Irma had knocked out air conditioning and temperatures rose.

“We are there for your 100 per cent,” Mr Trump said to people gathered to greet him and assured residents that he would be back to visit the state “numerous times”.

When asked if either of the massive hurricanes could change his views on the federal government addressing climate change, Mr Trump said "we've seen bigger storms than this" and referenced events from the early 1900s.

At least two million people across the state remain without power and there are still fuel shortages, according to Governor Rick Scott.

Mr Trump owns several properties in the state, including what he has dubbed the “Winter White House,” his golf club and resort Mar-a-Lago.

Speaking alongside Governor Rick Scott, Mr Trump praised him, the US military, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workers for their efforts.

The president also said that “we've seen the devastation. We're going to see some more of it now unfortunately” as estimates of damage are still coming through as people return to storm-ravaged parts of the state like the Florida Keys.

Mr Trump shook hands with several people and assisted volunteers by pointing to sandwiches for people to take.

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.

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.

The President also fielded questions about pressing matters in Washington DC like the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, a plan to protect people brought to the US illegally as minors from deportation and to allow them to obtain a work permit.

Of the people estimated 800,000 people eligible for DACA, approximately 90 per cent of current recipients are employed according to a survey by the Center for American Progress, with an average wage of $17.46 (£13.50) per hour.

These employed DACA recipients also pay federal and state taxes where applicable, as well as regular payments into the country's social security programme.

Approximately 72 per cent of Dreamers are enrolled in higher education institutions as well.

Mr Trump met with ranking Democrats in Congress Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi at the White House to discuss DACA after Mr Trump decided to rescind the Obama-era programme.

Mr Trump has said that a deal will be struck within six months but seemed to associate the programme with “extreme border security and surveillance” on the US-Mexico border and a proposed nearly 2000 mile border wall.

Mr Trump repeatedly claimed on the campaign trail and well into his presidency that Mexico would be providing the funding for the wall.

Ahead of his trip he sent out a string of tweets on the previous evening's dinner with "Chuck and Nancy".

While many of the so-called Dreamers are from Mexico and Central America, the programme includes people from several countries across the world who either entered illegally or overstayed visas.

“We're not looking at citizenship. We're not looking at amnesty. We're looking at allowing people to stay here. We're working with everybody,” said Mr Trump in Florida.

“We have to have an understanding that whether it’s in the budget or some other vehicle in a fairly short period of time, the wall will be funded. Otherwise, we're not doing anything,” Mr Trump said in Naples, Florida.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in