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Donald Trump surveys hurricane damage in Florida

MEXICO BEACH, FL – OCTOBER 15: President Donald Trump makes a flyover as he tours the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael on October 15, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm causing massive damage and claimed the lives of at least 17 people. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

President Donald Trump visited Florida on Monday, nearly a week after Hurricane Michael slammed the southern US state, where thousands of people are struggling to survive without running water or electricity.

Michael smashed into Florida’s western coast on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm, packing winds of 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour as it began a northern march through several states on the United States’ southeast coast, killing at least 17 people.

“Just arrived in Florida,” Trump tweeted upon arrival, having left Washington with his wife Melania in the morning.

“Also thinking about our GREAT Alabama farmers and our many friends in North and South Carolina today. We are with you!”

The president, who was also due to visit Georgia, spoke briefly with reporters alongside Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, whom he praised for “doing an incredible job.”

The governor thanked Trump for federal aid, saying that everything the state asked for had been delivered.

– ‘Just survival’ –
Florida’s Panama City, along with the small seaside 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 neighborhoods, 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 centers, as cars formed long queues in front of the few gas stations open for business.

More than half of Bay County, which includes Panama City, was still without electricity Monday morning, while several inland counties were more than 80 percent 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 US 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 $150 million, which soars to over $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.”

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