Melania Trump will join President Donald Trump on a visit to Florida’s storm-ravaged Panhandle on Monday.
The White House said the First Lady would accompany the president on his first tour of the destruction left by the deadly Hurricane Michael.
The president’s exact itinerary was not released late but he and Mrs Trump are scheduled to arrive at Elgin Air Force Base in the Panhandle about 11.30am local time on Monday.
They are not scheduled to return to the White House until 8.30pm, the White House said.
It was previously announced that Trump would also inspect south Georgia, which was also battered by the storm that came ashore on Florida’s Gulf Coast last week before it moved up the East Coast.
Melania Trump will join President Donald Trump (pictured in August) on a visit to Florida’s storm-ravaged Panhandle on Monday
The visit comes as Mrs Trump addressed the controversy surrounding a jacket she wore on a trip to visit migrant children who had been separated from their parents.
She sparked a backlash after wearing a jacket that said ‘I really don’t care, do u?’ on a trip to visit to the Upbring New Hope Children’s Centre in McAllen, Texas, in June.
Now, she has declared it was a message to ‘people and the left-wing media who are criticising me.’
At the time of the June visit, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said: ‘It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.’
But in an interview with ABC News during her solo trip to Africa last week, Mrs Trump insisted the jacket was a statement that the criticism will not stop her from doing ‘what I feel is right’.
The White House said the First Lady would accompany the president on his first tour of the destruction left by the deadly Hurricane Michael. Pictured, the devastation in Mexico Beach, florida
View of the destruction next to Kristen Garcia’s house in Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday
She noted that she wore the jacket getting on and off the plane, but not during her visits with children.
She said she purposely wore the jacket on the flight back to Washington after seeing ‘how the media was obsessed about it’.
‘It was kind of a message, yes,’ she said.
The First Lady’s visit to Florida with her husband also comes after she was forced to dismiss allegations of infidelity, saying people are just spreading rumors about her marriage.
Melania Trump addressed the controversy surrounding a jacket she wore on a trip to visit migrant children who had been separated from their parents in an ABC News interview
Mrs Trump said she loves her husband and has ‘much more important things to think about’ than allegations he cheated on her.
‘I know people like to speculate and media like to speculate about our marriage and circulate the gossip,’ she said.
‘But I understand the gossip sells newspapers, magazines … and, unfortunately, we live in this kind of world today.’
She insisted allegations of her husband’s infidelities are not a concern.
Asked in the interview if she loves her husband, Mrs Trump said: ‘Yes, we are fine. Yes.’
She added: ‘It is not a concern and focus of mine. I’m a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do.’
The president and First Lady’s visit comes as dozens of people remained missing in Florida Panhandle communities reduced to ruins.
At least 18 people in four states have died because of the storm.
Mrs Trump sparked a backlash after wearing a jacket that said ‘I really don’t care, do u?’ on a trip to visit to the Upbring New Hope Children’s Centre in McAllen, Texas, on June 21
Michael hit land on October 10 as a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 155 mph winds, one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in the continental US since records have been kept.
Rescuers said they expected the death toll to rise and they were using cadaver dogs and heavy equipment to search through collapsed homes in small towns such as Mexico Beach and Panama City for more victims.
Rescue efforts have been hampered by blocked roads and huge piles of rubble in many communities such as Mexico Beach, which took a direct hit from the massive storm that killed at least one person there.
‘If we lose only one life, to me that’s going to be a miracle,’ Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told Florida media.
Cathey told ABC News that 46 people out of the town of some 1,000 residents remained missing or unaccounted for on Sunday.
Survivors grappled with power outages and shortages of food and water amid the mazes of uprooted trees and debris.
It comes after First Lady Melania Trump took a solo trip to Africa earlier this month. Pictured, Mrs Trump with children during a visit to the Nest Orphanage in Limuru, Kenya on October 5
Electricity and telephone service were being slowly restored but it could be weeks before power returns to the state’s most damaged areas.
More than 1,700 search and rescue workers were deployed, Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office said, including seven swift-water rescue teams and nearly 300 ambulances.
In Panama City, one of the hardest-hit communities, Fire Chief Alex Baird said search and rescue teams were now in ‘recovery mode’ after largely giving up hope of finding any more survivors.
Trump is fully committed to helping state and local agencies with the recovery, the White House said.
It was announced late on Sunday that he declared a state of emergency in Georgia, freeing up federal resources for the state.
A similar declaration had already been made for Florida.