Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced a visit to hurricane-lashed Puerto Rico, as his administration faced criticism over its response to a growing humanitarian crisis in the US territory.
“I’m going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday,” Trump told reporters in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, signaling that October 3 was the first date he could go without interfering with recovery efforts.
After deadly Hurricane Maria hit last week, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello has warned of a “humanitarian crisis” without “swift action” to help.
Trump lamented that a hurricane had hit the “dead center” of the island, where “infrastructure was in bad shape before the storm.”
“We are still looking for people,” Trump said. “Those people are very important to all of us.”
“We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies.”
With federal aid only trickling in, many Puerto Ricans have already started their own cleanup operations, with some small shops and restaurants reopening with the help of generators.
But long lines remain at supermarkets and gas stations — with water, gas and ice all rationed.
Trump has faced blistering criticism for focusing much of his attention in recent days on a bitter feud with NFL players instead of the ravaged US territory.
Hurricanes Maria and Irma killed 13 people on the island — with Maria completely taking out the power grid and most of the island’s telecommunication networks.
The White House denied it had been slower to act following Hurricane Maria in overwhelmingly Hispanic Puerto Rico than in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey on the US mainland.