Hurricane Irma: Donald Trump meets, praises first responders for handling of storm-ravaged Florida

Hurricane Irma: Donald Trump meets, praises first responders for handling of storm-ravaged Florida

Hurricane Irma: Donald Trump meets, praises first responders for handling of storm-ravaged Florida

Updated 15 September 2017, 8:55 AEST

US President Donald Trump visits Hurricane Irma-ravaged Florida where he thanks authorities and first responders for limiting the death toll — which stands at 38 — given "the incredible power of that storm".

President Donald Trump has praised first responders in storm-ravaged Florida for limiting the US death toll from devastating Hurricane Irma, the second major storm to hit the United States this year.

Key points:

  • At least 81 people were killed by Irma, with at least 38 in the United States
  • Mr Trump says compared to the thousands of casualties expected "it was a small number"
  • Mr Trump met with survivors of the storm and handed out food

The death toll from Irma stands at 81, 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.

Florida officials including Governor Rick Scott and senator Marco Rubio greeted Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in Fort Myers, Florida.

The President, wearing a white baseball cap with USA written on it, later visited Naples, near where Irma first reached the US mainland on Sunday, where he handed out sandwiches and fruit to residents at a feeding station under a blue shade pavilion.

Mr Trump's visit to the state came a day after police in Hollywood, Florida, launched an 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.

Mr Trump praised first responders and local officials for their handling of the storm.

"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."

Three found dead in 'extremely hot'

The trip marked Mr Trump's third visit to a storm-hit part of the United States in the past three weeks, following two visits to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's record flooding.

It was seen as a clear bid to avoid the criticism that former Republican president George W Bush received for his administration's slow and inefficient response to 2005's Hurricane Katrina which killed some 1,800 people around New Orleans.

Firefighters and medics responding to a Wednesday emergency call in Hollywood north of Miami found three people dead inside a building whose second floor the police chief later described as "extremely hot".

Hollywood officials said eight people aged 71 to 99 died at the for-profit Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills, but the causes were not yet determined.

"We're looking into the temperature inside the facility, the staffing inside the facility, and all the conditions inside the facility in the hours leading up to this situation," Hollywood city spokeswoman Raelin Storey told a news conference on Thursday.

Repair bill from Irma tipped to top $31b

Irma rampaged through the Caribbean, devastating several islands and raking the northern shore of Cuba last week.

It barrelled into the Florida Keys island chain on Sunday, packing sustained winds of up to 215 kilometres per hour before ploughing up the Gulf Coast of the state and dissipating.

Some 3.1 million homes and businesses, representing close to one-third of the state's population, were without power on Thursday in Florida and neighbouring states.

Total insured losses from the storm are expected to run about $US25 billion ($31 billion), including $18 billion in the United States and $7 billion in the Caribbean.

About 25 per cent of homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 per cent heavily damaged, according to federal officials.

Irma hit Florida about two weeks after Hurricane Harvey ploughed into Houston, killing about 60 people and causing some $US180 billion in damage, mostly from flooding.

Reuters