Shortly after announcing plans to visit the Puerto Rico this week, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is “very proud” of the response to the devastation left by Hurricane Maria on the island, claiming that relief efforts have been described as “amazing.”
At a joint White House press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Trump described the challenges faced by the U.S. territory in the aftermath of the storm but touted the work being done to bring “water, food and supplies” to the island.
“Everybody has said, it’s amazing the job we have done in Puerto Rico,” said Trump. “We’re very proud of it.”
Trump’s tweets about NFL, Puerto Rico debt draw ire as island crippled by Hurricane Maria
Puerto Rico emerges from storm; water and some food scarce
On Monday, Trump faced criticism for tweeting that Puerto Rico is in “deep trouble,” highlighting the U.S. territory’s financial woes and “broken infrastructure” instead of offering support or reassurance to the victims of Maria.
“Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with,” Trump tweeted.
Trump also drew ire for focusing more on his feud with the NFL than the dire situation in Puerto Rico.
The president announced earlier in the day Tuesday his plans to visit the island next week. He explained that next Tuesday is the earliest he can visit the island because he does not want to “disrupt the relief efforts.”
“Puerto Rico is very important to me and Puerto Rico — the people are fantastic people,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “I grew up in New York so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. These are good people and we have to help them. The island is devastated.”
Recovery has been slow to restore food, water and power to the island. Trump argued that part of the difficulty in getting supplies to Puerto Rico is that it’s “an island sitting in the middle of an ocean, and it’s a big ocean.”
Trump also said that the U.S. is sending “a massive shipment of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico” and will continue to do so on an “hourly basis.”
Hurricane Maria is the third natural disaster Trump has had to respond to during his presidency.
After record flooding from Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, Trump made two visits, first to Corpus Christi and Austin on Aug. 29 and later to Houston and then Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Sept. 2. Trump also traveled this month to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
‘We’ve got A-pluses in Texas and Florida and we will also on Puerto Rico,” Trump said. Trump was criticized after his first trip to Texas for not meeting face-to-face with Harvey survivors, instead spending his time with government officials.
Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, told ABC News that Hurricane Maria has caused the “biggest catastrophe in Puerto Rico’s history.”
So far, there have been 16 reported deaths on the island in the aftermath.
“If we don’t get unprecedented collaboration from the federal government here, this could collapse into a humanitarian crisis,” Rossello told ABC News.