President Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year was an “unsung success” and “incredibly successful,” despite the fact thousands of people died in the wake of the storm.
Trump described his administration’s approach to the aftermath of the hurricane “one of the best jobs that has ever been done.”
The president was speaking alongside the director of FEMA as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the east coast of the US. He was responding to a question from a reporter about what could be learned from what happened in Puerto Rico following Maria.
Trump’s response to Puerto Rico has been broadly panned, as many critics have accused him of neglecting the US island as it struggled to recover from the devastating impact of Maria.
A study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government and released in late August found nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the wake of the storm. Based on the study’s findings, Hurricane Maria was the second deadliest storm in US history.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, blamed the federal government for not adequately preparing for Maria in response to the study.
“The latest study … puts the tragedy of Hurricane Maria on the same scale as the September 11th attacks,” Thompson said. “Because FEMA and the federal government were simply unprepared, thousands of our fellow American citizens have perished — and we now know that the poor and elderly were the most at risk.”
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, directly blamed Trump for the deaths in addition to lack of preparedness from the government on the federal and local level.
“The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect. The Trump administration led us to believe they were helping when they weren’t up to par, and they didn’t allow other countries to help us,” Cruz told CNN in late August. “Shame on President Trump. Shame on President Trump for not even once … just saying, ‘Look, I grieve with the people of Puerto Rico.'”
Hurricane Florence is predicted to make landfall on the east coast later this week. It is being characterized as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane.