Aug. 29 (UPI) — President Donald Trump traveled Saturday to Louisiana and Texas hard hit by Hurricane Laura as the death toll rose in the two states to 15 .
The first stop on Trump’s trip was Lake Charles, La., which had no power when he arrived to debris, downed trees and damaged buildings.
“I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana, it’s been a tremendous state for me. I love the people,” Trump told an assembled crowd of first responders, local leaders, FEMA and DHS officals and members of the press after visiting some of the hardest hit neighborhoods. “One thing I know about this state, they rebuild it fast, there’s no problem. And we’ll supply what we have to supply.”
He noted that storms are more frequent and stronger than those decades ago, but did not connect the increase in intensity and frequency to climate change when asked, saying the area has always been prone to storms.
Asked a similar question in Orange, Texas, he said, “We’ve had tremendous storms in Texas for many decades and for many centuries and that’s the way it is. We handle them as they come. All I can do is handle them as they come and that’s what we do and nobody has ever done a better job of it.”
Packing 150-mph winds, Laura made landfall Thursday as a Category 4 storm in western Louisiana, with aerial video showing flooding and extensive damage to homes.
The death toll has risen to 15, including 10 in Louisiana and five in Texas.
In Texas, Beaumont police said they were investigating the death of a man, 61, found Friday as a suspected generator-related death and urged people to put generators in a safe location.
In Sabine County, Texas, one person died after a tree hit his mobile home and three died from possible carbon monoxide poisoning in Port Arthur. Another 23 people in Port Arthur who used generators were hospitalized.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said five people died in his state from carbon monoxide poisoning from gas-powered emergency generators. Another four died from trees falling on homes and one drowned while on a boat.
“Hurricane Laura is the fifth strongest storm to make landfall in the United States in recorded history and the first in memory to maintain major hurricane strength as it traveled through Louisiana, bringing catastrophic destruction to many parishes,” Edwards said in a statement.
Trump has approved Edwards’ formal request for a disaster declaration for 23 parishes in the state, which frees up Federal Emergency Management Assistance.
In the two states, an estimated 8,000 homes were destroyed and the Red Cross said more than 14,000 people sought shelter from them and other agencies.
Edwards said more than 3,000 people in Louisiana alone found shelter in hotels.
As of Saturday morning, more than 429,000 utility customers were without power in Louisiana and 88,000 people were without power in Texas, according to Poweroutage.us.