Politics

Puerto Rico response hampered by ocean, Trump says

FILE -- Luz Rosado, center, directs the filling of water vessels at a natural spring at her home in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017. The Trump administration, which has insisted that its efforts in Puerto Rico were adequate, faced increasing pressure on Sept. 28 to mount a more aggressive response to Hurricane MariaÕs devastating lashing of the island. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

Victor J. Blue/The New York Times

Luz Rosado, center, directs the filling of water vessels at a natural spring at her home in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is defending his response to Puerto Rico’s hurricane destruction and says ‘‘big decisions’’ are coming on the cost of rebuilding the island.

Trump wrote on Twitter: ‘‘The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!’’

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Later in the morning while speaking to manufacturers, Trump said that the relief effort had been hampered by Puerto Rico’s location and seemed to express frustration with local officials.

“This is an island. Surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water. We’re closely coordinated with the territorial and local governments, which are totally and unfortunately unable to handle this catastrophic crisis on their own. Just totally unable to.”

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His comments come as people on the island have said help is scarce and disorganized and food supplies are dwindling in some remote towns after Hurricane Maria.

Trump is expected to survey the damage on the island on Tuesday.

On the ground in Puerto Rico, San Juan’s mayor slammed a Trump administration official for referring to Puerto Rico’s suffering as ‘‘a good news story.’’

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Acting Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke used the phrase Thursday on the White House driveway, saying the federal response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is ‘‘a good news story’’ and adding that ‘‘the relief effort is under control.’’ But the mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city heatedly denies that. Carmen Yulin Cruz said on CNN: ‘‘This is a people-are-dying story.’’

Duke was one of several members of the Trump administration Thursday to push back against reporting that the federal government was slow to respond to the storm, which knocked out power and left Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people short of food and water.

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