Trump has been smarting amid criticisms about the federal government’s response to the growing humanitarian crisis on the island of 3.4 million people.
“Puerto Rico is devastated. Phone system, electric grid many roads, gone. FEMA and First Responders are amazing. Governor said ‘great job!'” he tweeted Thursday.
“FEMA & First Responders are doing a GREAT job in Puerto Rico. Massive food & water delivered. Docks & electric grid dead. Locals trying really hard to help but many have lost their homes. Military is now on site and I will be there Tuesday. Wish press would treat fairly!” he wrote earlier Thursday.
"The loss of life, it's always tragic. But it's been incredible."
29 September, 2017
President Donald Trump misrepresented the crisis facing Puerto Rico Friday, bragging that people “can’t believe how successful” the administration has been at saving lives following Hurricane Maria.
“The loss of life, it’s always tragic. But it’s been incredible,” Trump told reporters Friday before taking off for his golf course in New Jersey. “The results that we’ve had with respect to loss of life. People can’t believe how successful that has been, relatively speaking.”
"The loss of life, it's always tragic. But it's been incredible. The results that we've had with respect to loss of life."
Just minutes later, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz painted a very different picture of the situation at a press conference.
“I am going to do what I never thought I would do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying,” Cruz said.
Speaking of the government’s response to the crisis, Cruz said, “We are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”
"We are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency." -- San Juan mayor, exasperating with govt response to Puerto Rico
Other Puerto Ricans are slamming Trump’s response to the crisis, as ThinkProgress’ E.A. Crunden reported Friday.
Trump did not address the crisis in the territory for several days after Hurricane Maria hit, seemingly preoccupied with his ongoing feud with NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. When Trump finally did address the crisis, he essentially blamed Puerto Rico for its own problems.
“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” Trump tweeted Monday. “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities — and doing well.”
Abi de la Paz de la Cruz, 3, holds a gas can as she waits in line with her family, to get fuel from a gas station, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Subsequently, when Trump has talked about the crisis, it has been to sing his own praises.
“Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello just stated: ‘The Administration and the President, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered……’” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello just stated: "The Administration and the President, every time we've spoken, they've delivered......
Puerto Rico mayor weeps as she begs for help while Trump congratulates himself on good job
San Juan mayor: 'I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying'
29 September, 2017
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, sharply rebuked the Trump administration's efforts to aid the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and delivered an emotional plea to "anyone who can hear us to save us all."
"I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency," Carmen Yulín Cruz said on Friday.
Cruz's plea comes as Puerto Ricans struggle to recover from the devastating impacts of Maria, after the storm slammed into the island nine days ago, leaving its millions of residents without power.
Aid has been slow to arrive to residents on the island, who are in increasingly dire need of food, water and medicine.
The Trump administration has come under fierce scrutiny from Puerto Ricans and lawmakers for not helping the U.S. territory quickly enough.
The U.S. Virgin Islands' congressional delegate and the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee on Friday called for an "emergency" Oversight hearing on the disaster response.
“Urgent action by our Committee now could help accelerate the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and make a measurable and significant difference in the lives of American families there,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) wrote in a joint letter.
The president insisted on Friday afternoon federal officials were doing a great job with relief efforts.
"We have done an incredible job, considering there's absolutely nothing to work with," Trump told reporters at the White House.
"And a very big question is, what are we going to do with the power plant? Because the power plant is totally wiped out," he said. "There is nothing. The power grid is gone."
Cruz made headlines earlier on Friday after she issued a sharp condemnation of acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke's comments in which she called the federal government's response to the devastation "a good news story."
“Maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story,” Cruz said. “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.”
She added: “Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story.”
Royal Caribbean cancels cruise to send ship on Hurricane Maria humanitarian mission
29 September, 2017
Royal Caribbean’s September 30 sailing of Adventure of the Seas has been cancelled to devote the 3,114-passenger cruise ship to hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean.
Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was devastated by the "catastrophic" and “life-threatening” winds of Hurricane Maria, the ship was diverted to St Croix and St Thomas to transport relief supplies before helping evacuees and stranded tourists from all three islands to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The ship is expected to return to San Juan on October 6 to prepare for its scheduled October 7 departure from St Croix to Martinique. All passengers on the cancelled sailing will be refunded and offered a 25 per cent future credit for any new cruises booked within the next 30 days. Several other cruises, including sailings on Harmony of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, have been scheduled for other dates in October.
Adventure of the Seas is the latest among a host of other ships that have been used in aid of hurricane relief in recent weeks, including idle ships from both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line that been sent to St Maarten, which suffered severe damage following the recent hurricanes.
Ships from Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line and the Caribbean’s largest cruise operator, were also reported to be delivering supplies, water and food to the Caribbean earlier this week and were in discussion with authorities in Puerto Rico on other ways to provide aid.
Several cruise lines have been pledging donations. Oceania Cruises this week announced it will donate £350 of every booking of a veranda stateroom and above for Caribbean sailings from December 2017 to April 2018, while Regent Seven Seas announced today it will donate £300 per guest for new bookings made from now until October 31 on eight selected 2018 Caribbean voyages on board Seven Seas Explorer, one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships.
Both cruise lines and their sister brands have pledged to raise at least $2.5 million (£1.87m) for relief efforts, with Oceania having committed to $1.25 million (£1.12m) in matching donations from guests, crew, suppliers and travel partners.
"The outpouring of assistance and support by Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry, hoteliers, and the many industry partners and friends of the Caribbean is heartwarming,” Frank J Copito, CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, told Telegraph Travel.
“It will be important that all stakeholders continue to support the sustained recovery efforts. We believe those affected destinations can come out stronger and better over time," he added.
The latest relief initiatives aren’t the first time cruise ships have been used for non-leisure purposes. Several ships throughout history have undergone temporary conversions to join the war effort, such as Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the world’s most famous ocean liners which marked its 50th anniversary last week.
The iconic ship was once used in the Falklands War in May 1982 to carry 3,000 troops to the South Atlantic. The ship was refitted for war service with several features including helicopter pads, steel plating and an anti-magnetic coil to combat explosive naval mines, while its public lounges were turned into dormitories.
P&O Cruises Canberra ocean liner was also used as a troopship in the Falklands War during its cruise ship tenure between 1961 and 1997. The ship was sailing in the Mediterranean, near Gibraltar, at the time when the war broke out. It returned to Southampton to be refitted and used to transport the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines to the islands.
More recently in 2011, the cruise ship Sea Voyager was used as a residence hall for students at St Mary’s College of Maryland following an infestation of mould in two of its dorm rooms on land.
Last year, several cruise ships, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines' 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway, doubled as floating hotels during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to create extra accommodation for visitors.
The White House on Thursday waived an act that was preventing foreign ships from delivering supplies to Puerto Rico, more than a week after Hurricane Maria devastated the US territory.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a tweet that Donald Trump had authorized the Jones Act to be waived for Puerto Rico at the request of its governor, Ricardo Rosselló. “It will go into effect immediately,” she said.
Federal and military aid for Puerto Rico increased Tuesday, including news that the hospital ship Comfort would be deployed, as officials got a clearer picture of the obscene destruction Hurricane Maria wrought on the U.S. territory.
Aid sent to Puerto Rico not reaching desperate residents
28 September, 2017
President Trump on Thursday waived shipping restrictions to get fuel and supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico — but aid that’s already there hasn’t been reaching desperate residents.
“There are plenty of ships and plenty of cargo to come into the island,” said Mark Miller, a spokesman for shipping company Crowley, which has 3,000 containers of supplies in the US territory.
“From there, that’s where the supply chain breaks down — getting the goods from the port to the people on the island who need them,” he told Bloomberg News.
Around 9,500 containers carrying supplies remained stuck at the Port of San Juan on Thursday, while the island’s 3.4 million residents faced another day of food, fuel and water shortages, waiting in hours-long lines to buy basic items.
“Really, our biggest challenge has been the logistical assets to try to get some of the food and some of the water to different areas of Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told MSNBC.
Many roads on the island remain washed out or blocked by debris, and authorities have had trouble reaching out to truck drivers who can deliver supplies.
“When we say that we don’t have truck drivers, we mean that we have not been able to contact them,” Rosselló said.
More than a week after Hurricane Maria hit the island as a Category 4 storm, Trump waived the Jones Act — which requires that all goods shipped between US ports be carried by American-owned and -operated ships — for the next 10 days
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief account would receive another $6.7 billion by the end of the week.
And the Pentagon said it was sending Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, a three-star general who served four tours in Iraq, to the island, where the military was trying to better coordinate the distribution of supplies to residents.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Marco Rubio said that only the Defense Department could manage the logistics of getting aid distributed to residents quickly.
“The only people who can restore it, who have the capacity to do so quickly in the short term and then turn it over to the authorities there in Puerto Rico, is the Department of Defense,” the Florida Republican told CNN.
“We need someone in charge of that with the know-how of logistics, with the capability to restore logistics and with the authority to make decisions quickly without having to check with 18 agencies.”
The Trump administration has been facing criticism over its response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, with some charging that it was slow to react.
“The federal response has been a disaster,” said lawmaker José Enrique Meléndez, a member of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party. “It’s been really slow.”
But Trump’s advisers pushed back against those accusations Thursday, with acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke saying that she was “very satisfied” with the federal government’s response and that “the relief effort is under control.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said 10,000 federal relief workers were now stationed in Puerto Rico.
“The full weight of the United States government is engaged to ensure that food, water, health care and other lifesaving resources are making it to the people in need,” she said.
Of the island’s 69 hospitals, 44 are operational, officials said. Forty-four percent of Puerto Ricans remain without drinking water and most of the island is still without power.
Pastor Irving Figueroa of the Wesleyan Church in the northern municipality of Guaynabo said islanders were desperate for food, water and medicine.
“Parents with two or three kids at home, they need water, and they need milk and the basics in order to help their kids,” he told The Post. “This is a catastrophic situation.”
Figueroa — whose church has been working with World Hope International to distribute supplies such as water filters, tarps and solar chargers — said people have been spending 10 to 11 hours in line just to buy gas.
“There are 500 to 700 people all in line to get water from the places that the government are providing,” he explained.
“This is the worst situation in our history. It’s like being in a military combat situation.”