WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that Puerto Rico is going to have to shoulder more responsibility for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, saying the federal government’s emergency responders can’t stay there “forever.”
His comments — in which he also blamed the beleaguered island for a financial crisis “largely of their own making” and infrastructure that was a “disaster” before the hurricane — come as Puerto Rico still reels from a lack of electricity, public health access and a rising death toll.
He wrote in two separate tweets, “‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.’ says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of……..accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend…”
He continued in a third tweet: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Trump’s tweets come nearly three weeks after the hurricane, as the vast majority of the island remains without power and the death toll from the storm has risen to 45, authorities said.
At least 113 people remain unaccounted for, according to Karixia Ortiz, a spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Safety.
The recovery has moved slowly since Maria struck the U.S. territory on Sept. 20, leaving most of the island without basic services such as power and running water, according to residents, relief workers and local elected officials.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke will make her second trip to the island on Thursday, DHS spokesman David Lapan said Wednesday.
The visit comes as hospitals throughout the cash-strapped island of 3.4 million people have been running low on medicine and fuel. Some residents and local elected officials have said they expect the death toll to rise.
House Speaker Paul Ryan will lead a bipartisan delegation visiting Puerto Rico on Friday, according to the speaker’s office.
The House will vote Thursday on a disaster relief bill following a series of devastating hurricanes and massive wildfires that have ravished parts of the United States.
While the Trump administration requested $29 billion in supplemental spending last week, it asked for additional resources Tuesday night, including $4.9 billion to specifically to fund a loan program that Puerto Rico can use to address basic functions like infrastructure needs.
The bill stood at $36.5 billion as of Wednesday afternoon.