Hurricane-hit Puerto Ricans describe Trump’s relief efforts as ‘disaster’

A picture taken on September 28, 2017 shows a house destroyed by Hurricane Maria in  Yabucoa, in the eastern part of storm-battered Puerto Rico. (Photo by AFP)
A picture taken on September 28, 2017 shows a house destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, in the eastern part of storm-battered Puerto Rico. (Photo by AFP)

Residents of the hurricane-hit Puerto Rican capital of San Juan have described relief efforts by US President Donald Trump’s administration as a “disaster,” insisting that federal help has been disorganized, delayed and scarce, especially in remote areas.

While several residents of the unincorporated US territory have insisted on not receiving any relief assistance in their towns and many still remain without food and clean drinking water, Trump and his administration officials have been boasting about aid deliveries to the Caribbean island, The Associated Press reported Friday.

This is while José Meléndez, a member of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, was cited in the report as underlining that the federal employees sent to the island to help “are there to impress the media and are not helping relief efforts in rural areas.”

“There are people literally just modeling their uniforms,” Meléndez stated as quoted in the report. “People are suffering outside.”

According to the report, Trump’s handling of relief efforts has been sharply censured by lawmakers, members of the media, officials from past administrations, celebrities and the public. Many have accused the US president of neglecting the situation in the Spanish-speaking island and prioritizing his conflict with the US National Football League (NFL) over national anthem protests.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz blasted acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke on Friday for calling the government’s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico a “good news story.”

Carlos Pagan walks in his destroyed house by Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

After hearing Duke’s comments, Cruz told CNN it was “irresponsible” to spin the island’s devastation so positively.

“Damn it, this is not a good news story,” she said. “This is a people-are-dying story.”

“Maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story,” the mayor complained. “When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story.”

Cruz said that as the situation on the island continues to deteriorate, people are scrambling to find food, especially in rural areas where supplies are not able to reach as easily.

Trump, meanwhile, praised relief efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in a tweet message on Thursday and censured US media outlets “for not covering his successes fairly,” the report said.

He also claimed earlier on Tuesday that providing supplies and other relief to Puerto Rico is more difficult than similar disaster efforts in Florida and Texas because it is a more isolated island in the Atlantic Ocean.

“We right now have our top people from FEMA, and they have been there,” he said at a White House press conference with Spain’s prime minister. “We are unloading on an hourly basis, massive loads of water and food and supplies for Puerto Rico.”

“And this isn’t like Florida where we can go right up the spine or like Texas where we go right down the middle and we distribute,” Trump said. “This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean, this is tough stuff.”

On Thursday, Trump temporarily waived the Jones Act, suspending shipping restrictions that have hindered the transfer of supplies to the island. Trump said he will travel to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

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