Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and U.S. President Donald Trump look over at each other as they hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2017.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his administration’s handling of disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, a week after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
“We are literally unloading water and supplies on an hourly basis, and we’re going to be deploying navy ships,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Mariano Rajoy, the visiting president of the government of Spain.
“As we speak, FEMA, our great first responders, and all available federal resources, including the military, are being marshaled to save lives, protect families and begin a long and very, very difficult restoration process,” Trump said.
He also pointed to comments from Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, praising the administration’s response.
“Rossello just told me this morning, the entire federal workforce is doing great work in Puerto Rico. And I appreciated his saying it. And he’s saying it to anybody that will listen,” Trump said.
Earlier in the day, the president announced that he will visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Oct.3, two weeks after the Category 5 storm left nearly all of Puerto Rico without power or radio communications.
The Trump administration has faced growing criticism for the pace of its response.
“The Trump administration’s response to the destruction in Puerto Rico has been wholly inadequate,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a recent statement. “A territory of 3.5 million American citizens is almost completely without power, water, food, and telephone service, and we have a handful of helicopters involved in DOD’s response. It’s a disgrace.”
Officials on the U.S. commonwealth have warned that the island faces an impending “humanitarian crisis” unless more supplies and rescue workers are deployed.