President Donald Trump says he’ll be visiting Puerto Rico next week, and possibly the Virgin Islands.
‘Puerto Rico is very important to me…These are great people and we have to help them,’ Trump said Tuesday. ‘These are wonderful people. They are hardy people and they’ll be back. But we’re helping them.’
The U.S. territories have been rocked by hurricanes. ‘The island is devastated. I read this morning, it’s literally destroyed,’ Trump said in a Tuesday morning meeting, referring to Puerto Rico.
President Donald Trump says he’ll be visiting Puerto Rico next week, and possibly the Virgin Islands
The recovery effort will be costly and arduous, Trump acknowledged as he praised local authorities and FEMA.
‘We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis. But that island was hit as hard as you could hit.
‘When you see 200 mile-an-hour winds, not even Texas had 200 mile-an-hour winds .. literally houses are just demolished, it was like tornadoes. It was like having hundreds of tornadoes. The winds.’
House Speaker Paul Ryan promised Tuesday before Trump remarks that Puerto Rico would receive the same level of aid that Texas and Florida received in the wake of their natural disasters.
‘Right now it’s search and rescue, it’s humanitarian,’ he said. ‘And when we get information we need from the administration we will be doing more to act on all of these hurricane victims wherever they are because these hurricanes have really wreaked havoc on many of our fellow citizens.’
Ryan said, ‘The Trump administration is going to do all that it needs to do to get the information to us so that Congress again will act in response to these hurricanes.
Trump acknowledged on Twitter late Monday that Puerto Rico was ‘in deep trouble,’ after facing blistering criticism for focusing much of his attention on a bitter feud with NFL players instead of the devastated US territory.
He also wrote that the United States unincorporated territory has ‘billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks’.
Hurricanes Maria and Irma killed 13 people on the island – with Maria almost completely destroying telecommunication networks last week.
‘Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,’ Trump tweeted.
‘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. #FEMA.’
President Donald Trump is pictured commenting on his feud with NFL players amid the ‘apocalyptic’ effect Hurricane Maria has wrought on the United States territory of Puerto Rico. Trump has been criticized for his response to helping Puerto Rico in comparison to his responses to the devastation from hurricanes in Texas and Florida this year
In a series of Monday night tweets, Trump wrote: ‘Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble…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. #FEMA’
A man bulldozes furniture damaged and debris following Hurricane Maria on a street in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
Damaged homes and vegetation during the passage of Hurricane Maria, are viewed on a mountain southwest of San Juan
A combination NOAA Satellite images taken at night shows Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria – Hurricane Maria knocked out power grid
Meanwhile, Marc Anthony had some scathing words for Donald Trump, pleading with the president to forget about football and focus instead on hurricane-hammered Puerto Rico.
Anthony tweeted on Monday night: ‘Mr. President shut the f— up about NFL. Do something about our people in need in #PuertoRico. We are American Citizens too.’
The 49-year-old singer was born in New York, but his parents are from Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.
Anthony is one of many entertainers with Puerto Rican roots trying to summon support.
‘Hamilton’ star Lin-Manuel tweeted that he’s ‘texting every famous Puerto Rican singer I know and several I don’t.’
John Legend tweeted criticism of Trump’s tweet: ‘POS POTUS insults Puerto Rico while they’re going through a terrible humanitarian crisis.’
Marc Anthony, pictured at a concert in New York City in August 2017, had some harsh words for President Donald Trump over his handling of Hurricane Maria the the consequent humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico
Anthony, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, wrote: ‘Mr. President shut the f*** up about NFL. Do something about our people in need in #PuertoRico. We are American citizens too’
John Legend tweeted: ‘POS POTUS insults Puerto Rico while they’re going through a terrible humanitarian crisis’
At a D.C. conference Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was welcomed onstage to the hit song Despacito – considered an ode to Puerto Rico.
This compelled her to reveal some disturbing information about her extended family in the face of Hurricane Maria.
‘As you know, the island is suffering a great tragedy right now,’ she said.
‘I have not heard from half my family yet,’ said Sotomayor, who was born in the Bronx, but whose parents were born on the island territory. ‘And so myself, personally, and the rest of my family, here in the states, are exceedingly concerned.’
‘We ask for your prayers,’ the justice added.
The White House earlier 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.
But Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, condemned the Trump administration’s response to the crisis as ‘wholly inadequate.’
‘A territory of 3.5 million American citizens is almost completely without power, water, food and telephone service, and we have a handful of helicopters involved in DOD’s response. It’s a disgrace,’ he said.
Jose Garcia Vicente walks through rubble of his destroyed home, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Aibonito, Puerto Rico
Damaged homes and downed trees are seen as people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 25 in Corozal, Puerto Rico
Pictured is another view of the damaged homes and downed trees in Corozal
Pictured is the damage to a multi-story home in Corozal. Maria left widespread damage across the island
Pictured is the damage wrote to a street of homes in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The photo was taken on September 25
More damage is pictured in Corozal. What appears to be a home with a detached smaller dwelling was completely destroyed
Pictured is another view of houses damaged in Puerto Rico. The photo was taken in Naranjito, Puerto Rico
La Plata Lake Dam is seen as people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 25 in Bayamon
A line of cars is seen waiting for gas as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 25 in Bayamon
The Trump administration has tried to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there.
Five days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.
Many Puerto Ricans have already started their own cleanup operations amid apocalyptic scenes of destruction, 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.
In Washington, officials said no armada of U.S. Navy ships was headed to the island because supplies could be carried in more efficiently by plane. The Trump administration ruled out temporarily setting aside federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo, saying it wasn’t needed. The administration said it will continue to enforce the Jones Act, which requires that goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged ships. Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said the agency had concluded there were already enough US-flagged vessels available.
The government had waived those rules in Florida and Texas until last week.
Though the administration said the focus on aid was strong, when two Cabinet secretaries spoke at a conference on another subject — including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose agency is helping restore the island’s power — neither made any mention of Puerto Rico or Hurricane Maria.
Democratic lawmakers with large Puerto Rican constituencies back on the mainland characterized the response so far as too little and too slow. The confirmed toll from Maria jumped to at least 49 on Monday, including 16 dead in Puerto Rico.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is seen in port as people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 25 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
A person walks by a damaged building in of El Gandul Community in Santurce after Hurricane Maria
Some areas of San Juan, Puerto Rico (above) remain flooded after Hurricane Maria passed last week
Danger: The Guajataca Dam in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico (above on Saturday) is in danger of failing as it was heavily damaged by rains from Hurricane Maria
An airplane themed restaurant is seen damaged by mudslides and winds in Barranquitas, southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico
A house destroyed by hurricane winds is seen in Corozal, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The scale of destruction is just now emergint as 95 percent of the island remains without cell phone service
National Guardsmen arrive Sunday at Barrio Obrero in Santurce to distribute water and food among those affected by Maria
‘Puerto Ricans are Americans,’ said Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York who traveled to Puerto Rico over the weekend to assess the damage. ‘We cannot and will not turn our backs on them.’
Trump himself was expected at the end of last week to visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, after they had been ravaged by Hurricane Irma. But the trip was delayed after Maria set its sights on the islands.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, and White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert landed in San Juan on Monday, appearing with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello at a brief news briefing. Though Rossello had urgently called for more emergency assistance over the weekend, he expressed his gratitude for the help so far.
The governor said the presence of Long and Bossert was ‘a clear indication that the administration is committed with Puerto Rico’s recovery process.’
Long said, ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do. We realize that.’
Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made no mention of Puerto Rico or the hurricane during a joint appearance before the National Petroleum Council, a business-friendly federal advisory committee. News reporters were not allowed to ask questions.
Perry had traveled with Trump to Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Iris Vazquez washes clothing at an open road drainage ditch in Puerto Rico. Officials describe conditions as ‘apocalyptic’
People affected by the passage of Hurricane Maria wait in line at Barrio Obrero to receive supplies from the National Guard
Residents line up gas cans on Sunday as they wait for a gas truck to service an empty gas station in Loiza, Puerto Rico
People sit in their apartment on Monday after the window was blown out by the winds of Hurricane Maria as it passed through San Juan, Puerto Rico
People sit in their apartment with the window blown out by the winds of Hurricane Maria
Hundreds of people waited in line to go into a bank in San Juan on Monday as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria
Pictured is another view of people waiting in line at a bank amid the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico
People carry water in bottles retrieved from a canal due to lack of water following passage of Hurricane Maria
Karlian Mercado, seven, plays on the foundation of her destroyed home. The family clean up rubble after hurricane Maria devastated a rural neighborhood
Members of the Massachusetts Task Force 1 conduct a search operation after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Yauco, Puerto Rico
Energy Department crews are working in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, coordinating with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, FEMA and a team from the New York Power Authority, among others. An eight-member team from the Western Area Power Authority, an Energy Department agency, assisted with initial damage assessments in Puerto Rico and has been redeployed to St. Thomas. A spokeswoman said additional responders would go to Puerto Rico as soon as transportation to the hurricane-ravaged island could be arranged.
Zinke’s department oversees the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with other territories.
The federal response to Maria faces obvious logistical challenges beyond those in Texas or Florida. Supplies must be delivered by air or sea, rather than with convoys of trucks.
FEMA said it had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They were helping coordinate a federal response that now includes more than 10,000 federal personnel spread across the two Caribbean archipelagos.
In Puerto Rico, federal workers supplied diesel to fuel generators at hospitals and delivered desperately needed food and water to hard-hit communities across the island. Cargo flights are bringing in additional supplies, and barges loaded with more goods are starting to arrive in the island’s ports.
San Juan’s international airport handled nearly 100 arrivals and departures on Sunday, including military and relief operations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The Pentagon dispatched the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, which provided helicopters and Marines to help with the relief effort onshore.
On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders were talking about how to pay for it all. Puerto Rico was already struggling from steep financial and economic challenges before Maria made landfall.
Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi joined with President Barack Obama to help recession-ravaged Puerto Rico deal with its debt crisis. After the devastating storm, Puerto Ricans will now be eligible to benefit from the same pots of federal emergency disaster aid and rebuilding funds available to residents in Texas and Florida.
Lawmakers approved a $15 billion hurricane relief packaged after Harvey hit Texas, but billions more will likely now be needed to respond to Maria.
Ryan said Monday that Congress will ensure the people of Puerto Rico ‘have what they need.’
Officials in Puerto Rico had earlier described conditions there as ‘apocalyptic’ in the wake of Maria, with widespread destruction and looting and electricity and cell phone service cut off for much of the island.
On Saturday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló met with more than 50 local mayors and representatives from across the island, who relayed reports of commercial and residential looting, CNN reported.
On Sunday, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in the US Congress said that Hurricane Maria’s destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.
Hurricane Maria left a path of destruction in a rural neighborhood
Maria left widespread damage across Puerto Rico, with virtually the whole island without power or cell service and many streets still flooded
A man walks along a flooded street as people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 25
Pictured is another view of a flooded street, through which a truck is seen driving to drive
A man is pictured walking through a flooded street and looking up to the sky
The insides of a destroyed home are pictured amid the utter devastation Hurricane Maria wrought on Puerto Rico
Nearly one week after hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, residents are still trying to get the basics of food, water, gas, and money from banks
A line of people wraps around the Banco Popular in San Juan as people are desperate to get cash
Yancy Leon who has been waiting in line for two days to get an American Airlines flight out of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport continues to wait as she tries to escape the conditions after Hurricane Maria
Airlines workers assist passengers in getting tickets to leave the island at International Airport Luis Munoz Marin in Carolina, near San Juan
‘The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,’ said Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez.
‘I can’t deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago. The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere. The island’s greenery is gone.’
Engineers on Sunday planned to inspect the roughly 90-year-old Guajataca Dam, which holds back a reservoir covering about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) in northwest Puerto Rico.
The government said it suffered a large crack after Maria dumped 15 inches (nearly 40 centimeters) of rain on the surrounding mountains and that it ‘will collapse at any minute.’ Nearby residents had been evacuated, but began returning to their homes Saturday after a spillway eased pressure on the dam.
Puerto Rico’s National Guard diverted an oil tanker that broke free and threatened to crash into the southeast coast, said Rossello, and officials still had not had communication with nine of 78 municipalities.
‘This is a major disaster,’ he said. ‘We’ve had extensive damage. This is going to take some time.’
Across the Caribbean, Maria had claimed at least 31 lives, including at least 15 on hard-hit Dominica.
Trump on Friday called for NFL players demonstrating against racial inequality during the national anthem to be fired, triggering a row in which leading players across the country knelt in protest over the weekend.
‘That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,’ Trump said during a campaign-style rally on Friday in Alabama. He added: ‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.’
On Saturday, he tweeted a similar sentiment.
‘If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,’ Trump wrote. ‘If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!’
A woman prepares food during nightfall outside her house, destroyed by Hurricane Maria, in Toa Altaa, Puerto Rico
A man tries to repair a freezer during nightfall outside his home on September 25, 2017 in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico
People are waiting more than five hours to fill gas jugs for their generators at home on Monday in San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan airport is operating with barely electricity. Some waiting in the sweltering terminals said they had been stranded for days with limited food and no water
Crystal Garcia and Evelyn Torres (L-R) wait in line to get a United Airlines flight out of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport as they try to escape the conditions after Hurricane Maria
Stranded tourists and Puerto Ricans line up at the International Airport as they try to leave after Hurricane Maria devastated power and communications across the island on September 25
Pictured is another view of stranded tourists and Puerto Ricans at the airport
A man warms up his food in a microwave at the International Airport after Hurricane Maria devastated power and communications across the island