- Associated Press - Friday, October 6, 2017

FREDERIKSTED, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) - Vice President Mike Pence took a helicopter tour of damage to the U.S. Virgin Islands wrought by Hurricane Maria, describing the wreckage as “overwhelming.”

“But the resilience of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands is even greater,” Pence said. He said President Donald Trump wants people to know, “We will be with you every day until the Virgin Islands comes all the way back.”

During the aerial tour, Pence saw upended boats along the coast, blue tarps atop damaged homes and uprooted trees and vegetation.

Pence had seen other damage earlier, when his plane flew over homes stripped of their roofs, toppled trees and debris strewn in yards as it arrived on St. Croix. Pence attended a briefing on recovery efforts at an Army National Guard hangar before visiting a church to meet with people affected by the storm. President Donald Trump had hoped to visit earlier in the week, but the White House said difficult logistics in the aftermath of the storm prevented his trip.

“He wanted us to be here in the U.S. Virgin Islands to say very plainly and simply we are with you today, we will be with you tomorrow, we will be with you every day until the U.S. Virgin Islands comes all the way back,” Pence told local officials.

Visiting with locals at a church, Pence invited his wife, Karen, the family “prayer captain,” to lead the congregation in prayer.

Construction worker Jose Sanchez, 33, said the visit “builds morale; it gives us hope.”

As for Maria, Sanchez said: “It was a whipping that we received. It is something that people are never going to forget, like Katrina.”

Kenneth E. Mapp, governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, said the federal government had hurricane response efforts “down to a science.”

“There is no country that responds to disasters like the United States of America,” he said, adding that the island is making progress in its recovery from Hurricane Maria and expects schools to reopen on Tuesday.

The vice president was traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico, later in the day. The trip came days after Trump visited Puerto Rico and praised relief efforts without mentioning the criticism that the federal response has drawn.

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