President Trump Says Response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Was 'Underappreciated'

Lamar Ellis
September 12, 2018

With a powerful hurricane bearing down on the Southeast coast, President Donald Trump on Tuesday turned attention back to the federal government's response to hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago, deeming it "incredibly successful" even though a recent federal report found that almost 3,000 people died.

"We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan)", Trump said in a Twitter posting.

"We'll handle it, we're ready, we're able".

This time - as Hurricane Florence and a series of other storms barrel toward the USA - the Department of Homeland Security division charged with responding to disasters says it's prepared even as the agency defends its 2017 response. It will be arriving soon.

In an interview with "Good Morning America", FEMA administrator Brock Long addressed Trump's declaration of success, saying, "The problem is that FEMA was the only responder going in and we were the first responder and that's not the way that disaster response and recovery works".

The report found Puerto Rico's emergency-supply warehouses were almost empty when Hurricane Maria hit in October, without things like cots or tarps, because numerous supplies had been rerouted to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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"The storm will come. We are ready. We are ready as anybody has ever been". "It's going to be a very large one".

Connolly's home state of Virginia is also in the storm's path. Trump has declared states of emergency for all three states. "It's tremendously big and tremendously wet", he said.

Asked on Tuesday what lessons the administration learned in 2017 responding to storms in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, Trump boasted that he deserved top marks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency itself has acknowledged that it was ill-prepared for the storm. The Government Accountability Office said the agency had failed to adequately house disaster victims, distribute financial assistance in a timely fashion or do enough to prevent fraud.

In a report published last month, George Washington University researchers estimated that the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria had led to 2,975 excess deaths in the six months after the storm. He also said that the territory had no electricity even before Maria struck, an exaggeration.

"We do not want to see Hurricane Isaac hit Puerto Rico", said Trump who defended his administration's response to Hurricane Maria last week.

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