Oct. 3 (UPI) — President Donald Trump arrived in Puerto Rico Thursday afternoon to view the impact of hurricanes Maria and Irma on the island — amid criticism of his administration’s response efforts.
Trump praised and thanked Puerto Rican Governor, Ricardo Rosselló, in a press conference for “not playing politics” and “saying it like it was giving us the highest grades.”
The president went on to thank members of FEMA, Navy, Army and Coast Guard for their continued efforts on the island.
“You’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack … we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico,” Trump said.
“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the hundreds and hundreds of people that died and you look at what happened here… you can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together,” he continued.
FEMA director in Puerto Rico Alejandro de la Campa noted that nearly 530,000 gallons of water and a million meals have so far been distributed with more than $7 million in aid, but former President George W. Bush aide Tevi Troy said storm victims don’t want to hear Trump praising federal response efforts right now.
“People don’t want to hear ‘hey, we’re doing great,’ and they don’t want to hear, ‘hey, we’re doing awful,” Troy said. “What they want is concrete information about what’s being done to help them and how long it will take to get back to normal.”
Trump planned to meet with storm survivors and first responders and assess the damage to Puerto Rico, press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“I appreciate your support and I know you appreciate our support,” Trump said. “Our country has gone all out to help… it’s dangerous and expensive. I consider that a great honor.”
Last week, Trump criticized local Puerto Rican officials and the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, for her “poor leadership.”
As Trump visited the island Tuesday, residents remain in desperate need of assistance. Almost all private homes and businesses are still without power and nearly half the island lacked access to water and sewage treatment. Sixty-five percent of grocery stores are currently in operation and less than one-fifth of Puerto Rico’s cellular towers are working. Many rural, mountainous towns remain cut off from neighboring communities due to debris.
Rosselló said that the island hopes to have 25 percent of electricity customers back in power by the end of October.