It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, and still much of the island is without power. Lack of access to drinking water risks creating a public health crisis, and food and fuel are in short supply. President Trump has claimed the US government’s relief efforts have made “tremendous strides.” Yesterday, Trump said that the death toll (at least 16 people have died) was a sign of how successful the recovery has been.
“The loss of life — it’s always tragic — but it’s been incredible the results that we’ve had with respect to loss of life,” he reportedly said (paywall) as he was about to leave the White House to go to his New Jersey golf club for the weekend. “People can’t believe how successful that has been, relatively speaking.” Acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke also noted that the recovery was a “good news story.”
These comments have surely been greeted by disbelief by the people suffering in Puerto Rico. Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of the island’s capital of San Juan, said that the situation was “not a good news story.” She issued a “mayday” call for help on Friday (Sept. 29): “We are dying here,” she said at a press conference. Making a direct appeal to Trump, she said: “Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of North America. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”
Instead, Trump fired off a series of scathing tweets this morning, accusing Cruz of criticizing him at the behest of Democrats and saying Puerto Ricans weren’t doing enough to help themselves.
Trump has since said on Twitter that he will be going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday with his wife Melania. Earlier this week, the administrator of FEMA said there were 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships around Puerto Rico and 10 more ships were on the way, including a Navy hospital ship. The organization also said there were more than 10,000 federal staff on the island and they had delivered more than four million meals and six million liters of water. For more help, Puerto Ricans are coming to rely upon the assistance of the massive Puerto Rican diaspora on the US mainland, where celebrities are donating millions of dollars themselves, as well as raising awareness.