Home World U.S. News Hurricane Maria: Donald Trump Defends His Response to Puerto Rico Disaster

Hurricane Maria: Donald Trump Defends His Response to Puerto Rico Disaster

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In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump has defended his reaction to the disaster in Puerto Rico, which has been ravaged by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Much of Puerto Rico territory has lost power, while residents say they are running low on medicines and food.

Critics have accused President Trump of being slow to respond, and of showing more concern for Texas and Florida after they were hit by hurricanes.

President Trump has announced he will visit Puerto Rico next week.

Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico on September 20, killing 16 people and knocking out electricity, water and telephone services.

The hurricane tore through the island as one of the most powerful storms in nearly 90 years.

About 44% of the 3.5 million residents living on the island are still without clean drinking water six days after the storm barreled through, the Defense Department said on September 26.

Image source WhiteHouse.gov

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Puerto Rico’s government has asked a judge to defer key deadlines in its bankruptcy case as it grapples with Maria’s devastation.

President Trump came under fire after he spent the weekend focusing on a feud with NFL players and coaches, instead of acknowledging the Puerto Rico disaster.

He tweeted about the crisis on September 25 – but angered critics by suggesting that Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt needed to be addressed amid its appeal for relief aid: “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well. #FEMA.”

On September 26, the White House announced that President Trump had increased federal funding and assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the storm.

The president said he would visit Puerto Rico on October 3 – nearly a fortnight after the storm struck – because it was the “earliest I can go without disrupting relief efforts”.

President Trump may also visit the US Virgin Islands, which was hit by both Hurricane Maria and Irma.

He said his administration was doing a “really good job” and that the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, was “so grateful”.

President Trump said rescue efforts were complicated because Puerto Rico was offshore.

“This is a thing called the Atlantic ocean, this is tough stuff,” he said.

He added: “Puerto Rico is very important to me. The people are fantastic. I grew up in New York so I know many Puerto Rican people.”

Ricardo Rossello told Reuters President Trump’s handling of the disaster had been “excellent” and that the government had “responded very quickly” to the crisis.

More than 10,000 US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff are on the ground in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to assist with relief efforts, according to the agency.