President Donald Trump has sought to soothe those who suffered losses in Hurricane Florence, declaring that “America grieves for you” as he surveyed damage the powerful storm left behind.

After being briefed on the recovery effort, President Trump helped handed containers of hot dogs and chips at a Baptist church in New Bern, a riverfront city on the coast that experienced severe flooding.

President Trump’s motorcade then drove through a storm-damaged neighbourhood where piles of water-logged sofa cushions, mattresses and downed trees lined streets and boats lay on their sides after washing up along a grassy shore.

“How’s it doing,” the president asked after a woman pointed at a house. He chatted and shook people’s hands as he walked along a street strewn with rubbish, branches and sodden furniture – offering hugs and handshakes and posing for photos. Some people applauded as he went by.

During the briefing with Gov Roy Cooper and federal and other state officials, President Trump pledged to be with storm victims “100%” as they recover from the torrential rains and heavy flooding that Florence left behind. A massive federal, state and local recovery effort is under way.

Gov Cooper said Florence was “epic” in nature. It is blamed for at least 37 deaths in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia since coming ashore on Friday.

At the first stop, Gov Cooper briefed the president at a Marine Corps air station in Havelock, which sits among areas Florence hit hardest.

Tropical Weather Trump
President Donald Trump and North Carolina Gov Roy Cooper greet volunteers as they prepare to hand out food at Temple Baptist Church (Evan Vucci/AP)

The governor asked for help “cutting red tape” to get his state the federal assistance it will need to recover.

He noted that farmers suffered significant losses and scores of people lost their homes. Some 10,000 people remained in shelters.

“We will be there 100%,” said President Trump, wearing a wind breaker and seated inside a hangar with federal and state officials.

“All of the folks from the federal government that are around the table are confirming it.”

President Trump praised first responders and offered comfort to residents who suffered losses in the storm, saying: “To the families who have lost loved ones, America grieves with you, and our hearts break for you. God bless you. We will never forget your loss, we will never leave your side. We’re with you all the way.”

“And to all those impacted by this terrible storm, our entire American family is with you and ready to help. And you will recover,” he said.