President Donald Trump made a trip to the American island of Puerto Rico on Tuesday, two weeks after monster storm Hurricane Maria destroyed parts of the island and left millions of people without power.
Trump was scheduled to spend five hours in Puerto Rico, which is still badly damaged from the storm which swept through the country last month.
During his visit, the President will meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello and other local officials as well as first responders and Puerto Rican residents to determine what the federal government can do to help the island recover from the disaster.
Trump’s visit is the fourth to an area damaged by a natural disaster over the last several weeks -- he has also paid visits to Florida, Louisiana, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were all hit by various hurricanes in September.
Trump praised local officials’ response to the hurricane on Tuesday.
“You can be very proud,” Trump said.
Puerto Rico, Trump said, faces a more difficult road ahead in part due to its geographical location.
"It's very tough because it's an island,” Trump said last week. “In Texas, we can ship the trucks right out there, you know, we've got A-pluses on Texas and Florida and we will also on Puerto Rico, but the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean, and it's a big ocean, it's a very big ocean, and I think we're doing a really good job.”
Critics have pounced on Trump’s response to the storm in recent weeks, slamming the president for “not doing enough” to help Puerto Ricans, many of whom are without potable water and electricity.
Local officials in Puerto Rico have been particularly critical of Trump, saying he is focused more on “politics” than recovery and relief efforts.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has been one of the fiercest critics against Trump’s handling of the storm, accusing him of putting politics over recovery efforts.
"I will use this opportunity to reiterate the primary message: this is about saving lives, not about politics; this is also about giving the people of Puerto Rico the respect we deserve; and recognizing the moral imperative to do both," Cruz said in a statement.
According to Gov. Rossello, around half of the country has water supplies and about a quarter of Puerto Ricans should regain power by next month. Ten percent of Puerto Rican households are expected to have electricity within the next two weeks.
Rossello also said over 1.5 million barrels of fuel are headed to Puerto Rico in the coming days. Around 40 percent of the country has mobile phone service but communication is still being restored to the island.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has also made the push for continued aid to Puerto Rico in recent weeks, visiting the country while urging federal officials to take the disaster seriously.
Florida’s junior senator praised federal agencies for their hard work helping the country, praising Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who leads the federal government’s response efforts in Puerto Rico.
“As [Trump] visits Puerto Rico today we are slowly but surely starting to see progress made by the Dept. of Defense and FEMA surge,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday. “Still a long road ahead, but things really starting turning since Gen. [Jeffrey] Buchanan and his team arrived to help FEMA & [Rossello].”
Gov. Rick Scott declared a State of Emergency in all 67 Florida counties in response to Hurricane Maria on Monday. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are expected to come to Florida to flee the country in the coming months.
In a press release, Scott said the declaration would provide “important resources” and assistance needed to accommodate families impacted by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm which ravaged the American territory of Puerto Rico last month.
“Puerto Rico was totally devastated by Hurricane Maria and so many families lost everything,” Scott said in a statement Monday. “With families displaced by Hurricane Maria already present and still arriving in Florida, it is critical that our state is prepared to provide the resources they need upon entering our state.”
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