Earthquake-hit Mexico has itself offered aid to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s destructive passage through the Caribbean.
The US’s southern neighbour plans to ship experts from its state-run power company to the island, where large numbers of people are without electricity, along with 30 tonnes of water and mosquito repellent.
The offer came on Wednesday, a day after President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico. He told islanders they could be “very proud” that more people had not perished in the storm, compared to the toll from “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Mexico’s offer comes in the context of strained relations with the US in the months since Mr Trump took office. The President has promised to build a wall along the US’s southern border to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs, and repeatedly claimed Mexico will pay for it.
Mexico had planned to send material assistance to the US after Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in late August, but later withdrew the offer after the first of the two earthquakes struck in the country’s south in early September.
Mr Trump was criticised in Mexico for the time he took to offer condolences to his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, over the first quake, which killed at least 98 people. The US president later said he had been unable to reach Mr Peña Nieto because of poor phone reception.
But after Maria struck Puerto Rico, the local mobile phone operator of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim proved more reliable than some US competitors during the early days of the communications outage across the island of 3.4 million people.
Pledging an all-out relief effort in the US’ Caribbean territory, and thanking those who had praised the federal response so far, Mr Trump added on Tuesday: “Now I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives.”
Some 34 people are thought to have died on the island.
During his visit to Puerto Rico, Mr Trump threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd in the Guaynabo district, a move described by Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, as “terrible and abominable”.
Ms Yulín Cruz has faced venomous public attacks by the President after criticising elements of the government’s response to Maria. She said: “Sometimes his style of communication gets in the way. I would hope that the president of the United States stops spouting out comments that really hurt the people of Puerto Rico.”