Trump to view Irma damage in Florida

As many as one in four of all dwellings in the Florida Keys are said to have been destroyed.

US President Donald Trump will travel to Florida on Thursday to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Irma as it tore through the state.

It will be Mr Trump’s third trip related to hurricanes in two weeks. He will be joined by the first lady.

Irma is being linked to at least 12 deaths in the US since it struck as a category four storm on Sunday.

Nearly 6.9 million homes were without power in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama.

Parts of the Florida Keys, the low-lying islands which bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma, have reopened.

But entry is being restricted to residents and business owners as work continues to clear roads and check the state of bridges linking the islands.

Officials estimate that some 25% of homes in the Keys were destroyed while another 65% suffered damage.

“So many areas that you would never have thought have flooded, have flooded,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

Why was Florida spared worst of Irma?

Europe steps up response to Irma

Mr Trump visited Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey on 29 August and returned to the Lone Star state on 2 September, also stopping in Louisiana to meet some of the victims at a shelter.

The president will now turn his attention to victims of Hurricane Irma, which left seven people dead in Florida, three in Georgia and one in South Carolina, according to US media.

The storm also left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, where nearly 40 people were killed.

French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in the region and is to visit devastated French islands, while UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is heading to the British Virgin Islands.

Both France and Britain have been criticised for not doing enough to help their nationals in overseas territories affected by the hurricane.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander spent Monday night on the Dutch side of St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands.

He told the NOS public newscaster: “I have seen proper war as well as natural disasters before, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Thousands of people ignored calls to evacuate last week, and clung on in the dangerously exposed islands during the storm.

Teams are still working to clear Highway 1, the road connecting most of the inhabited islands, and bridge inspections are continuing.

Some residents were allowed into the towns of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada on Tuesday morning, authorities in Monroe Country said.

They were warned that services on the islands were limited: most areas were still without power and water, mobile phone signals were patchy and most petrol stations were still closed.

The US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln has arrived off Florida and other navy ships were in the area on Tuesday to help distribute food to the Keys and evacuate residents.

In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry said 356 people had to be rescued amid record-high storm surges and flooding, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Other parts of the state escaped the storm lightly compared to the Caribbean islands.

“The storm surge flooding in Miami is a mere fraction of what would have happened if the core of the storm had been further east,” Rick Knabb, former director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a tweet.

The storm was downgraded as it moved north towards Atlanta, Georgia, with maximum sustained winds of 35mph (56km/h), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a statement.

Another hurricane, Jose, has been weakening over the western Atlantic, with swells due to affect parts of Hispaniola (the island split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, later this week.

The government has a “light touch approach” to tackling the issue, the National Audit Office says.