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As Puerto Rico struggles after devastating hurricane, Trump feels backlash about pace of help


1.gifCatch up on news from the island. Are conditions improving?

2.gifComment on a photo from Puerto Rico. How does it make you feel?

3.gifShare an excerpt from an opinion column or editorial about this situation.

Federal disaster relief teams on Puerto Rico, including military personnel, are struggling to aid millions of victims from last month's Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm's 155 m.p.h winds devastated the U.S. territory in the Caribbean on Sept. 20. Puerto Rico, an island whose residents are American citizens, hadn't yet recovered from Hurricane Irma in early September. The second, stronger storm left all 3.4 million people without electricity. Cell phone service, Internet access and other communication networks are crippled. It may take months to restore power in some areas, says Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke flew from Washington to the island Friday and said: "Clearly the situation . . . is not satisfactory, but together we are getting there and the progress is very strong. . . . We have over 10,000 federal people on the ground."

President Trump plans to visit Tuesday and also stop at the U.S. Virgin Islands, where 103,000 residents are affected. Some critics accuse the administration of a slow and initially inadequate response to the crisis, which includes fuel and food shortages, broken water mains, overwhelmed hospitals and shelters, ruined crops and delays in moving relief supplies into communities because not enough trucks, drivers and diesel fuel are available. A Navy hospital ship left Virginia last Friday, nine days after the hurricane hit.

The president and other officials say the federal government is fully engaged in providing relief. "We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico," Trump tweets Sunday, taking issue with "the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates" who suggest otherwise. Two days earlier, he tweeted: "It's going really well, considering. We've made tremendous strides. Very tough situation. . . . People can’t believe how successful it's been." But in San Juan, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz shows frustration. "Damn it, this is not a good news story," she told CNN Friday. "This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story. . . . This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen." Speaking of this week's presidential visit, she says: "Let him walk in Comerio and see people drinking water from a creek. Let him go to Rincon and see people huddled over because they have no food or water. Let him hear the cries of elderly people . . . screaming 'help us.'"

CNN correspondents on Puerto Rico include Sanjay Gupta, a medical doctor who says: "The level of pain and suffering I've seen in Puerto Rico has been hard to accept. . . . The dual blow of two major hurricanes has left this island with a medical crisis that is usually reserved for war zones. . . . So many lifesaving supplies are on the island, but until they get to the people who need them, they have little value."

Resident says: "We're just holding on." – Enyoliz Parrilla, 35

Trump says: "The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump." – Sept. 29 tweet

Mayor says: "This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen." -- Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2018
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