President Trump said he would give his administration a perfect “10” for its response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, despite widespread power outages and the lack of basic services like running water.
“I would give myself a 10,” Trump said Thursday as he sat next to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, because “we have provided so much, so fast.”
“I’d say it was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved, Trump said during the White House meeting. “You look at the number. I mean, this was — I think it was worse than Katrina.”
Rossello, who was lobbying for more assistance from Washington four weeks after Hurricane Maria slammed into the US commonwealth, sidestepped Trump’s request to rate his response.
Trump asked, “Did we do a good job?”
Rossello replied, “You responded immediately, sir.”
The two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico last month — first Irma then Maria — were “in many ways worse than anything people have ever seen,” Trump said.
“They got hit by a category 4. Grazed. But grazed about, you know, a big portion of the island,” the president said. “But it was grazed. The rest of it hit Florida, as you know. But that was bad. But then they got hit dead center … by a category 5. … It hit right through the middle of the island, right through the middle of Puerto Rico. There’s never been anything like that. I give ourselves a 10.”
Trump was faulted for his administration’s sluggish response to provide relief, especially when compared to the aid operations after hurricanes hit Florida and Texas, and for his comments that emergency personnel couldn’t stay on Puerto Rico indefinitely.
Responding to upbeat comments from Trump’s acting Homeland Security secretary, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said, “This is not a good news story, this is a people are dying story.”
Nearly a month after Maria made landfall, only 22 percent of the island’s 3.4 million residents have electricity and 72 percent have access to clean water.
But about 78 percent of the hospitals are open, although electric service is still unreliable.
Trump said despite the efforts of emergency personnel, getting help to the residents was a logistical nightmare because the storm wrecked infrastructure and many of the roads were blocked with debris from the storm.
Remarking on Puerto Rico’s $74 billion in debt, Trump said the government would work out a plan for it to pay back any loans during the rebuilding process.
“I will say that I have given my blessing to Congress and Congress is working with you and your representatives on coming up with a plan and a payment plan and how it’s all going to be funded,” he said.
The Senate is considering giving Puerto Rico $4.9 billion in loans as part of a hurricane and wildfire relief bill.