Trump’s administration and Puerto Rican officials have contradictory views on the current situation after hurricanes Irma and Maria both ripped through the island in a time span of just three weeks. The White House says everything’s cool while local officials claim people are dying right now.
Just 14 days after they were struck by the catastrophic Hurricane Irma, Maria, another category-five hurricane swept through the island on the 20th of September. Maria is the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, and probably the biggest natural disaster to happen to the unincorporated US territory in its entire history.
Since Maria hit the island, Puerto Rico has been immersed in a profound crisis, with the banking system, power grid and cellphone towers all knocked out at once. The devastation was so huge, even the local response teams in charge of dealing with the situation had to evacuate from their shelters. Add to that their already weak infrastructure, their ongoing financial crisis and political instability and one can imagine the view is not good at all.
Many of Puerto Rico’s citizens are currently struggling to access food, water and fuel. Currently, 95% of the island lacks electrical power.
Yet Trump went on to downplay what the island going through, comparing their peril with that of 2005’s hurricane Katrina during a brief with local officials.
“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous – hundreds and hundreds of people that died – and you look at what happened here with, really, a storm that was just totally overpowering … no one has ever seen anything like this,” Trump said.
“What is your death count?” he asked Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. “17?”
“16,” Rosselló answered.
“16 people certified,” Trump continued, “1 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.”
His words echo remarks from Elaine Duke, Secretary of Homeland Security who previously said she was “very satisfied” with the aid efforts so far. “It is really a good-news story,” she told reporters last week.
The Mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz thinks very differently. “Well, maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good-news story. 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 told CNN’s New Day last Friday.
“Damn it, this is not a good-news story. This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is a ‘there’s-a-truck-load-of-stuff-that-cannot-be-taken-to-people story.’ This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water,” she added emphatically.
Meanwhile, the official death toll rises dramatically as Puerto Rico’s officials begin to assess the magnitude of the tragedy. Governor Rosselló said the casualties were 34 so far, including 19 people who died as a direct result of the storm and 15 more whose deaths were indirectly caused by the natural catastrophe.
In other news, Donald Trump threw paper towels into a crowd of Puerto Rican citizens in dire need of emergency supplies. Yes, this actually happened.