'Such a small number' died in Hurricane Irma - Trump

  • 15/09/2017
Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. Photo credit: Reuters

US 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.

Mr Trump's Thursday visit came the day 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.

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.

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

"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."

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.

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".

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 215km/h and destroying 25 percent of homes before sweeping 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.

Total insured losses from the storm are expected to run about US$25 billion, including US$18 billion in the United States and US$7 billion in the Caribbean, catastrophe modeller Karen Clark & Co estimated on Wednesday.