Trump praises storm re­sponse

VP joins president in Florida to as­sess hur­ri­cane dam­age

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Kur­tis Lee, Pa­trick J. McDon­nell and Laura King Los An­ge­les Times’ Kur­tis Lee re­ported from Los An­ge­les, Pa­trick J. McDon­nell from Naples and Laura King from Wash­ing­ton.

NAPLES, Fla. — President Don­ald Trump told Florida hur­ri­cane vic­tims his ad­min­is­tra­tion is “there for you 100 per­cent” as of­fi­cials moved ur­gently to safe­guard the state’s vul­ner­a­ble el­derly and re­store power to mil­lions of homes and busi­nesses still with­out elec­tric­ity.

The president and first lady Me­la­nia Trump ar­rived aboard Air Force One in Fort My­ers on the penin­sula’s south­west­ern Gulf coast, then trav­eled by he­li­copter to Naples, 40 miles away. It was Trump’s third dis­as­ter-zone visit in less than three weeks.

In a Naples mo­bile home park, not far from where Hur­ri­cane Irma made its sec­ond land­fall in Florida, Trump shook hands with res­i­dents, quizzed peo­ple about how they were far­ing and joined vol­un­teers serv­ing lunch.

“We love the peo­ple of Florida,” he said, pledg­ing that he would be back to mon­i­tor re­cov­ery progress. “We are there for you 100 per­cent. … These are spe­cial, spe­cial peo­ple.”

Ear­lier, he hailed his own ad­min­is­tra­tion’s per­for­mance as well as that of state and lo­cal of­fi­cials.

“I think we’re do­ing agood job in Florida,” Trump said in a brief ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with re­porters af­ter land­ing in Fort My­ers.

Ad­dress­ing a group of res­cue work­ers and of­fi­cials President Don­ald Trump, first lady Me­la­nia Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, right, tour Naples Es­tates in Naples, Fla., a neigh­bor­hood im­pacted by Hur­ri­cane Irma. as­sem­bled in an air­port hangar, he paid spe­cial trib­ute to first re­spon­ders and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The gover­nor, flank­ing him, in turn praised the White House and fed­eral re­sponse.

“As you know, our state’s been dev­as­tated,” Scott said.

Vice President Mike Pence, who joined 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.”

Florida’s nascent restora­tion drive is pro­jected to take months and cost bil­lions of dol­lars, af­ter the storm bat­tered parts of the Florida Keys, trig­gered se­ri­ous flood­ing in the north­ern part of the state and up­ended daily life in ma­jor cities and small towns in be­tween.

The pres­i­den­tial visit to Florida comes a day af­ter eight pa­tients died in a swel­ter­ing nurs­ing home in Hol­ly­wood that was left with lim­ited power af­ter Irma pounded the re­gion. On Thurs­day, the city’s law en­force­ment was granted a search war­rant in an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Raelin Storey, a spokes- woman for the city, said the fa­cil­ity had some power early Wed­nes­day, but “the build­ing’s air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem was not fully func­tional.”

Scott on Thurs­day di­rected the Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion to is­sue an emer­gency mora­to­rium to pre­vent the fa­cil­ity in ques­tion from hous­ing any pa­tients.

Hot, hu­mid con­di­tions and a lack of power have im­per­iled Florida’s large pop­u­la­tion of the el­derly, and some pre-emp­tive evac­u­a­tions were un­der­way to pro­tect nurs­ing home res­i­dents.

Fire res­cue teams re­moved 122 peo­ple from two as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties near Or­lando as a safety mea­sure, a fire de­part­ment spokes­woman said. In Fort Laud­erdale, res­i­dents of an as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity that lost power were moved to sim­i­lar in­sti­tu­tions close by that had elec­tric­ity.

Though the num­ber of peo­ple with elec­tric­ity has im­proved from ear­lier in the week, some 4.9 mil­lion peo­ple across the penin­sula con­tin­ued to wait for power. Util­ity of­fi­cials warned it could take a weeko­r­more­for all ar­eas to be back up and run­ning. But Trump and Scott pointed to progress in restor­ing the elec­tri­cal grid

In­clud­ing the nurs­ing home deaths, at least 26 peo­ple in Florida have died un­der Irma-re­lated cir­cum­stances, and six more in South Carolina and Ge­or­gia, many of them well af­ter the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

Af­ter ini­tial stum­bles in ear­lier dis­as­ter-zone vis­its and crit­i­cism over a per­ceived lack of em­pa­thy for those af­fected, Trump ap­peared more com­fort­able Thurs­day in the role of con­soler-in-chief, tasked with the cer­e­mo­nial duty of ral­ly­ing flag­ging spir­its in the hur­ri­cane zone.

Still, he raised some eye­brows by in­ject­ing pol­i­tics into Thurs­day’s visit, declar­ing in his ar­rival re­marks that Scott, a Repub­li­can, should run for the Se­nate, chal­leng­ing Demo­crat Sen. Bill Nelson. He also struck a some­what odd note in an­nounc­ing that he wanted to make sure storm-af­fected peo­ple were “happy.”

As Florida strug­gled to re­vive its com­mer­cial and busi­ness life, school classes re­mained dis­rupted. Of­fi­cials from the Mi­ami-Dade Pub­lic School Dis­trict said schools would re­main closed the rest of the week be­cause of power is­sues. In Naples, the Col­lier County Pub­lic School Dis­trict re­mains closed and will not re­open un­til next week.

EVAN VUCCI/AP

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