‘This is not a good news story,’ San Juan’s mayor says.
President Donald Trump on Friday continued to defend his administration's disaster response for Puerto Rico amid mounting criticism and rising concerns for the U.S. territory's 3.5 million residents.
"Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello just stated: ‘The Administration and the President, every time we've spoken, they've delivered......" Trump said on Twitter.
Trump thanked federal agencies "who are working so hard against terrible odds" in Puerto Rico, and touted his visit to the island next week.
But not everyone is impressed by the administration's response as nearly half of Puerto Rico’s residents remain without access to drinking water and almost the entire island lacks power amid a massive breakdown in infrastructure predicted to last months.
The Mayor San Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz, expressed her frustration Friday in response to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke's comment the response was "a 'good-news' story".
"This is not a 'good-news' story," Cruz told CNN. "This is a 'people are dying' story."
Cruz called Duke's statement "irresponsible" and invited her to visit Puerto Rico to witness the devastation first-hand.
"When you are drinking from a creek, it's not a 'good-news' story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a 'good-news' story," Cruz said.
Trump on Thursday waived the Jones Act, easing shipping restrictions on relief goods that the government and nonprofits are trying to deliver to the island.
Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters Thursday that Washington has sent 10,000 federal relief workers, including more than 7,000 troops, to the island.
Bossert defended the administration's decision to wait eight days between declaring an emergency and appointing Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, commander of U.S. Army North, to lead the recovery efforts.
"Because it didn't require a three-star general eight days ago," Bossert said.
He also criticized media coverage he said "in some cases is giving the appearance that we are not moving fast enough".
On Thursday, popstar Rihanna addressed Trump on his most popular platform when she tweeted: "Don't let your people die like this."
Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who won praise for managing the recovery efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said the federal government should have sent relief workers and aid ahead of the storm.
"Puerto Rico is a bigger and tougher mission than Katrina," Honore said.