WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he will visit Puerto Rico next week to evaluate the damage after Hurricane Maria slammed the US commonwealth, causing at least 16 deaths and knocking out power, water and telecommunications.
Next Tuesday, Oct. 3, is the soonest that authorities in Puerto Rico can accommodate a presidential visit, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with lawmakers.
Federal authorities are busy dispatching aid to the island, which was “literally destroyed” by Maria, the president said, commending Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello for his handling of the crisis.
Hours earlier, Trump tweeted about the situation and thanked the mayor of San Juan for her positive remarks about the role of the US Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) in relief and recovery efforts.
“Thank you to Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, for your kind words on FEMA etc. We are working hard. Much food and water there/on way,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Yulin Cruz hailed FEMA during an interview Tuesday with CNN.
The presence of the federal agency “is making people feel like we’re not alone and we can make it,” she said. “FEMA people have been wonderful.”
While happy to recall Yulin Cruz’s praise for FEMA, Trump did not mention her criticism of his own previous Twitter comments suggesting that Maria did so much damage to Puerto Rico in part because of the island’s “fragile infrastructure” and massive debt.
“When someone is in need, when someone is in dire need, when someone is in a life or death situation, there is a human, moral imperative to deal with that situation before dealing with anything else,” the mayor told CNN when asked about Trump’s reference to the Puerto Rican debt crisis.