President Trump surveys hurricane damage in Florida
President Donald Trump on Monday (Oct 15) toured areas of Florida devastated by Hurricane Michael last week, and met some of the thousands of people still struggling to survive without running water or electricity.
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania tour areas damaged by Hurricane Michael in Lynn Haven, Florida. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)
Flying in the Marine One presidential helicopter over Mexico Beach, one of the towns worst hit by the Category 4 storm, Trump surveyed uprooted trees, rows of roofless homes, some of them torn from their foundations, downed water towers and a parking lot where 18-wheel trucks had been scattered like children's toys.
"It is incredible, the power of the storm," Trump said in televised remarks. "Somebody said it was like a very wide, extremely wide tornado. That's really what this was. This was beyond any winds that they've seen."
Michael smashed into Florida's western coast on Wednesday, packing winds of 250 kilometres per hour as it began a northern march through several states on the United States' southeast coast, killing at least 17 people.
Trump was accompanied by his wife Melania and Florida's outgoing Republican governor Rick Scott and Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, as he inspected damaged homes and businesses.
The president praised Scott - who is running for the Senate in next month's mid-term elections - for "doing an incredible job."
The governor thanked Trump for federal aid, saying that everything the state asked for had been delivered.
Florida's Panama City, along with the smaller resort of Mexico Beach, were left particularly devastated, with thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.
Power lines and telephone networks remained out of service in many neighbourhoods, with only major highways cleared.
"You wouldn't even know they had homes," Trump said of people whose houses were swept off their foundations as the monster storm hit.
Relief workers who arrived in the aftermath of the hurricane set up water and food distribution centres, as cars formed long queues in front of the few gas stations open for business.
U.S. President Donald Trump hands out bottles of water as he tour damage from Hurricane Michael in Lynn Haven, Florida. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)
More than half of Bay County, which includes Panama City, was still without electricity Monday morning, while several inland counties were more than 80 per cent cut off, according to emergency service officials.
"Right now it's just survival," said Daniel Fraga, a resident of Panama City. "The good thing is we all came together, we all help each other. We are in this together."
The U.S. Army, National Guard and police have been crisscrossing the area, which at dusk goes dark.
Tyndall Air Force Base, located between Panama City and Mexico Beach, suffered extensive damage and reports had speculated on the fate of a number of F-22 fighter jets that could not be flown out ahead of Michael's arrival.
The unit cost of the aircraft is around USD 150 million, which soars to over USD 330 million when research and development are priced in.
"Visually, they were all intact and looked much better than expected considering the surrounding damage to some structures," the Air Force said in a statement.
"Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies."
Trump's tour took him past the base before he took off again in Air Force One for Georgia, which also suffered damage as the storm plowed across the southeast of the country./.