News World Hurricane Irma:Donald Trump meets, praises Florida’s first responders for low death toll

Hurricane Irma:Donald Trump meets, praises Florida’s first responders for low death toll

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The President and First Lady hand out bread rolls and bottles of water to locals at Naples Estate. Photo: AAP
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US President Donald Trump has arrived in Florida for his third visit in three weeks and praised emergency services as the reason “thousands and thousands of people” didn’t die during Hurricane Irma.

Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio greeted Mr Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in Fort Myers.

During their tour, the trio visited areas devastated by Hurricane Irma and met with locals, handing out sandwiches and bananas to people in a mobile home community that was flattened by the storm.

They posed for photos as people approached them and many thanked them as piles of debris, broken furniture and flattened trees were stacked nearby, according to The New York Daily News.

One man yelled, “Make America Great Again!” Another told Trump that he “married well” before Mr Trump pledged to be “there for you 100 per cent”, according to the paper.

“I’ll be back here numerous times. This is a state that I know very well,” he reportedly told them.

The Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Keys island chain last weekend after carving a destructive path through the eastern Caribbean, forcing the mandatory evacuation of almost six million people and forcing the state into lockdown.

The death toll from Irma stood at 81 on Thursday, including 38 in the United States, with several hard-hit Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands accounting for more than half of the fatalities.

“When you think of the incredible power of that storm, and while people unfortunately passed, it was such a small number,” Mr Trump said.

“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.”

More than 25 per cent of homes and businesses were destroyed across the Florida Keys with 3.1 million homes still without power on Thursday (local time).

A damages bill is expected to run in excess of $US25 billion ($A31 billion).

Mr Trump posted a series of tweets thanking the first responders, including firefighters and medics, for their hard work before heading back to Washington DC.

The visit marked Mr Trump’s third visit to a storm-hit part of the United States in the past three weeks, and is seen as a bid to avoid the criticism of Republican President George W Bush for his administration’s response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

That storm killed 1800 people around New Orleans.

However, Mr Trump’s visit came less than 24 hours after police in Hollywood, Florida, launched a criminal investigation into a nursing home where eight patients died after the facility lost power and continued to operate with little or no air conditioning in sweltering heat.

—with agencies