If anyone was worried about the Trump administration’s readiness to deal with Hurricane Florence, the president wants to reassure them by pointing to the “tremendous” response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year — where nearly 3,000 citizens lost their lives due to the storm.
“I actually think it is one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” Trump said Tuesday in the Oval Office during a briefing on preparations for Florence, heading for the Carolinas and due to make landfall Thursday.
The official death toll from the Puerto Rico storm last fall had been 64, but a recent study by independent researchers found it was almost 3,000 people who died from the disaster. According a report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly half of the evacuees from the hurricane have been living in Florida and can’t move any time soon due to the economy and failing infrastructure. For an entire week following the hurricane, FEMA didn’t even have information on about half of the wastewater treatment plants or the hospitals.
But Trump is happy with the overall response. “I think that Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” he said. “Puerto Rico was actually our toughest one of all because it is an island.”
Trump was trying to reassure Americans that they are ready for Hurricane Florence, which he called “tremendously big and tremendously wet.”
“We're all ready,” Trump said. “FEMA is ready. Everybody's ready. I think most importantly the people are ready. We're all ready for it. Everybody is standing by. There's a chance it could be a very bad one. We're absolutely prepared.”
Trump added that boats were deployed to deliver supplies to the island. During one memorable trip last year, the president threw paper towels to hurricane survivors: an event Puerto Ricans aren't wildly fond of.
And many Puerto Rico officials have slammed the government’s slow response, with some citing racism as part of the problem. “I believe Puerto Rico is a stain for FEMA and Trump’s reputation, because the world was able to see the lack of humanity, solidarity, compassion and service of an administration that could have helped us but decided not to,” Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico told Newsweek in an interview published Tuesday. “Racism and discrimination have nestled in the White House, and abuse against Latinos has found a powerful instrument in the president,” she argued. “Puerto Ricans will never erase from their memory images of Trump throwing paper towels to [hurricane survivors last October].”