President Donald Trump pledged to spare no effort to help Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria’s ruinous aftermath even as San Juan’s mayor, her voice breaking with rage, accused his administration of “killing us with the inefficiency”.
Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz implored Trump on Friday to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives”, while the president asserted US officials and emergency personnel are working all-out against daunting odds, with “incredible” results.
Trump’s acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, visited the island on Friday, surveying the ravaged landscape by helicopter in an hour-long tour, driving past still-flooded streets, twisted billboards, and roofs with gaping holes, offering encouragement to some of the 10,000 emergency personnel she said the US government has on the ground.
Duke tried, too, to move on from the remarks she made a day earlier in which she called the federal relief effort a “good-news story”. But on that front, she ran into winds as fierce as Maria.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” Cruz said in a news conference. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. This is a people-are-dying story.”
Thousands more Puerto Ricans got water and rationed food on Friday as an aid bottleneck began to ease. By now, telecommunications are back for about 30 percent of the island, nearly half of the supermarkets have reopened at least for reduced hours, and about 60 percent of the petrol stations are pumping.
But many remain desperate for necessities, most urgently water, long after the September 20 hurricane.
Trump is expected to survey the damage on Tuesday.