- Associated Press - Friday, September 15, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The U.S. Virgin Islands can count on help from New York as they seek to rebuild after Hurricane Irma, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday following a trip to the Caribbean islands meant to assess damage and show solidarity.

During the one-day visit the Democratic governor surveyed damage from the air before touring damaged neighborhoods and meeting with Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Cuomo said he encountered far worse damage than what has been shown on television on the mainland, including buildings missing roofs or walls, utility poles “broken like twigs” and an electrical system left in tatters.

“This was a devastating blow to the Virgin Islands,” Cuomo said following his return to New York on Friday night.

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He pledged to help the Virgin Islands “in any way we can.”

Following the visit, Cuomo announced the deployment of 100 National Guard military police and 30 state police officers to assist local authorities. New York has already sent Air National Guard aircraft and personnel to the islands to help with search and rescue. Other units have traveled recently to Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory, likely will fuel speculation about Cuomo’s interest in running for president in 2020. Cuomo, who says he’ll seek a third term as governor, was asked to visit by Mapp, a native New Yorker.

“We have a special connection with New York, as more U.S. Virgin Islands residents list their place of birth as New York than any other state in the nation,” said Mapp, an independent.

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