President Trump and the first lady are expected to arrive in Puerto Rico around noon Tuesday to help manage recovery efforts in the wake of the massive blow dealt to the island by Hurricane Maria.
According to the White House, the president will receive a briefing on Hurricane Maria relief efforts, then meet with the governors of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. He and the first lady will also meet with individuals impacted by the storm’s devastation, as well as senior U.S. military personnel tasked with leading the recovery. He is scheduled for a little over five hours on Puerto Rico before heading back to the White House.
Many of the island’s 3.4 million residents are struggling to obtain basic goods and services after Maria made initial landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane, taking dozens of lives. Additionally, the storm has racked up tens of billions of dollars in property damage and wiped out much of the electricity capacity in Puerto Rico. Last week, 95 percent of the island was without power, 95 percent of its residents had no cell phone service, and less than half the U.S. territory had potable water.
U.S. federal agencies under President Trump have deployed tremendous resources to assist in recovery and relief efforts, delivering millions of meals, millions of liters of usable water, and much-needed rebuilding supplies and medical aid. Though substantial progress has been made over the past week to get these necessities into the hands of Puerto Ricans, relief agencies recognize there is still much to be accomplished to get the U.S. territory back on its feet.
“It’s been amazing what’s been done in a very short period of time on Puerto Rico. There’s never been a piece of land that we’ve known that was so devastated,” President Trump said Monday. “But we’ve gotten tremendous amounts of food and water, and lots of other things—supplies—generally speaking, on the island. So we’re going tomorrow, first thing, very early.”
The Trump administration has faced fierce criticism from the political opposition in Puerto Rico and in Washington D.C. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, has fiercely criticized the president for not doing enough to help out, going as far as to declare the president “immoral.” President Trump stands by the efforts made by federal agencies, the U.S. military, and American NGOs, claiming that the San Juan mayor is a political partisan who is showcasing “poor leadership ability.” In defending the administration’s response to the hurricane, the president pointed out that there are substantial resources, delivered by U.S. assets, available at the port in San Juan. However, local distributors on the island have largely failed to execute the logistics needed to move the resources to needy areas. The president has called on Puerto Rican officials to step up and make recovery operations more of a “community effort.”
The Puerto Rico trip will mark the fourth time the president has flown to a U.S. state or territory devastated by the ongoing hurricane season, which has caused substantial damage and many deaths in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On Wednesday, President Trump will fly to Las Vegas in the aftermath of the worst mass killing on American soil since 9/11, which caused the deaths of over 50 Americans and injuries to over 500 more. Investigators are still determining what motivated the shooter to take innocent lives.