Biden pledges Florida support in wake of storm damage

US President Joe Biden has vowed to give Florida any support it needs to help rebuild in the wake of Tropical Storm Idalia’s destruction.

Mr Biden was speaking during a visit to the state, where at least two people are known to have died after the storm made landfall on Wednesday,

He added that no “intelligent” person could doubt the impact of climate change in the wake of the storm.

Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis chose not to meet the president on his trip.

Mr DeSantis had earlier suggested Mr Biden’s presence could hinder disaster response efforts. Mr Biden, who has spoken to Mr DeSantis multiple times this week, had said they would be meeting in person.

But a spokesperson for Mr DeSantis said on Friday that the governor had no plans to meet with the president, adding that security preparations required for such a meeting would “shut down ongoing recovery efforts”.

Mr Biden praised Mr DeSantis during his visit on Saturday and said he was not disappointed by the Republican governor’s absence.

“He sat with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and decided where we should go, where would be the least disruption,” Mr Biden told reporters in front of a storm-damaged house in the town of Live Oak, one of the worst-hit areas.

Mr Biden did meet with Rick Scott, one of the state’s two Republican senators, and said it was a “reassuring” sign that the state leadership and federal authorities were working well together.

Mr DeSantis spent the day about 50 miles (80km) south, touring small communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast, according to his official schedule.

  • In pictures: Hurricane Idalia brings destruction
  • Floridians evacuate as hurricane hurtles towards coast

The president and First Lady Jill Biden also met with evacuated residents at an elementary school.

“As I told your governor, if there’s anything your state needs, I’m ready to mobilise that support,” Mr Biden said at a press conference afterwards.

“Your nation has your back, and we’ll be with you until the job is done.”

Idalia landed as a powerful hurricane in Florida’s Big Bend area on Wednesday and has been described by officials as the worst storm to hit the region in 100 years. The storm has since travelled north, hitting the neighbouring state of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Homes and businesses have been flooded, and power has been knocked out for hundreds of thousands of people.

FEMA head Deanne Criswell told reporters on Saturday that search and rescue operations had ended and officials were focusing on restoring power to the affected regions.

She added that less than 1% of Floridians were without power, though that figure was significantly higher in some areas directly impacted by the hurricane.

Mr DeSantis has consistently polled second for the Republican presidential primary nomination, trailing far behind frontrunner and former President Donald Trump.

The 2024 election is widely expected to be a repeat of 2020 between Mr Biden and Mr Trump.

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