Trump praises Puerto Rico response as "unsung success"

Frederick Owens
September 13, 2018

In seeking to assure Americans that his government is prepared for the storm, Trump has also tried to defend his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, calling it an "unsung success".

Earlier this month, the island's governor formally raised the death toll from the 2017 storm to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at George Washington University.

The administration's efforts in Puerto Rico received widespread criticism, and he battled with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

FEMA administrator Brock Long said Wednesday on MSNBC that "indirect deaths" are often more numerous than deaths caused immediately by a natural disaster.

Despite significant evidence showing almost 3,000 people were killed in the devastating storm a year ago, Trump tweeted that the official death toll was a political scheme, two days after he was sharply criticised for saying the government had an "unsung success" in its response to Maria.

He says, "We are ready for the big one that is coming!"

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But a report from the Government Accountability Office said FEMA was so overwhelmed with storms past year that when Maria hit it was unable to respond properly, noting that more than half of its disaster workers were not qualified for the jobs they were doing.

Media captionMonths after Maria, many on this United States island still suffered in the dark What have Puerto Rican officials said?

But after visiting the island last September, Trump said that Puerto Ricans were fortunate that the storm did not yield a catastrophe akin to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. Based on the study's findings, Hurricane Maria was the second deadliest storm in USA history.

While praising the Puerto Rico response, Trump did allude to the lack of power that plagued the island after its hurricane. Last month, the New York Times reported that 10 trailers of food and other supplies were found rotting in a parking lot in Puerto Rico, where they were devoured by rats. "Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!" "And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy". "If we did that, we're going to fess up to it". "And so, we're reorganizing the firepower of the federal government underneath these critical lifelines, we're pushing forward", Long added.

President Trump took issue Thursday with the number of deaths attributable to Hurricane Maria, falsely saying a higher count had been generated by Democrats to "make me look as bad as possible". "I think in a certain way the best job we did was Puerto Rico but nobody would understand that, I mean it's harder to understand".

The study was commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, a member of Puerto Rico's "New Progressive Party".

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