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Trump meets victims, responders in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

Trump meets victims, responders in hurricane-ravaged Puerto RicoBy Roberta Rampton and Gabriel Stargardter SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday on a mission to reassure the island’s struggling residents that he is committed to their recovery from a devastating hurricane that has tested his ability to manage natural disasters. One of the first people Trump met when he and his wife, Melania, touched down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the city’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has repeatedly blasted Trump as showing insufficient concern about the U.S. territory’s plight. Trump, who has grappled with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the past six weeks, praised the federal assistance so far in Puerto Rico but said at a briefing that the disasters are straining the boundaries of the U.S. budget.


Donald Trump tells Puerto Ricans they should be proud death toll 'not a real catastrophe like Katrina'

Donald Trump tells Puerto Ricans they should be proud death toll 'not a real catastrophe like Katrina'Donald Trump visited hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday, where he remarked that officials should be “proud” because the death toll was not as high as “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina. Mr Trump and his wife Melania were briefed on relief efforts, after the president noted as he landed that the hurricane had "thrown our budget out of whack". “If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the hundreds and hundreds of people that died – what is your death count? Sixteen. You can be very proud of all of your people,” he said.  Doctors, however, warn that significant numbers of people are at now risk of dying from treatable diseases because they cannot access their routine prescriptions. There is also growing concern about the spread of disease on an island which still is largely without power, a fortnight after Hurricane Maria hit, and where mountain communities remain flooded and largely cut off. Mr Trump visited the affluent district of Guaynabo, telling a family who showed him their damaged home to “have a good time”, before heading to a community centre distributing aid, where he tossed rolls of toilet paper into the crowd. Mr Trump and Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One Credit:  Joe Raedle/Getty Earlier, Mr Trump thanked the navy chiefs, telling them he had witnessed their efforts as his plane came down to land. "I saw them flying in and I said, boy, this looks like very big stuff," he said. "There are no docks, no nothing, and the way you got this on shore is incredible." Mr Trump has been criticised over his response to the hurricane and accused of inaction in the immediate aftermath. The president appeared unaware that the Crowley port terminal in San Juan, contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was reopened three days after the storm. He asked Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon, who represents Puerto Rico in Congress, to say again some of the “very nice things” she had said about relief efforts. Ricardo Rossello, governor of Puerto Rico, then thanked Mr Trump for his support. Mr Trump and Melania Trump prepare to leave Washington, DC for the hurricane-hit island Credit: Reuters "This is a united effort. We need to work together to overcome the many challenges we have here," he said. "Over the course of the past week you have called essentially every day. You have always responded to us. We are convinced that working together – it is a challenging time, we need to do more – but we will make Puerto Rico stronger than ever before." The officials around the table clapped enthusiastically – all except Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan, who sat with her hands clasped in front of her. The pair, who sparred on Twitter over the weekend, had exchanged pleasantries before the meeting. Mr Trump then set off to visit the island, meeting some of those affected by the disaster in the capital, San Juan, before visiting the Cavalry Chapel in Guaynabo – one of the most affluent areas of the city. He will then board the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship home to 1,893 marines, for meetings with Mr Rossello and Kenneth Mapp, governor of the US Virgin Islands. The president and his wife landed on an island whose basic infrastructure was almost entirely wiped out a fortnight ago by Maria – the worst storm in 90 years. There is still no power; half the 3.4 million people do not have running water; 65 per cent are without communications; and almost 9,000 have been forced from their homes. Puerto Ricans hope that Mr Trump’s visit will further open his eyes to the misery. The president has some previous association with the island. Four years ago it was home to one of his golf courses. “We’re part of the US; he’s our president, so we welcome his arrival,” said Jason Matos, the superintendent at the course once known as Trump International Golf Club. San Juan mayor focused on 'saving lives' not Trump row 01:05 “He’s said so much about how he cares. So now he has to show it.” Mr Trump managed the golf course from 2008 until 2015, when the resort – struggling before he took it on – finally declared bankruptcy. The Trump Organization walked away with more than $600,000 in revenue from the management and licensing deal. Eric Trump said after the bankruptcy filing: “We made many millions of dollars on it but never invested a dime.” He later insisted the Trump involvement was minimal. "We merely licensed our name for a fee and have nothing to do with the ownership, development or entity," said Eric. Harriet Alexander dispatch: Aid crisis in Puerto Rico 01:31 Now renamed the Coco Beach golf course, the 36-hole resort, at the foot of the mountains that make up El Yunque rainforest national park, 20 miles east of the capital, has been closed since the hurricane. But the greens are clear, and Roberto Delgado, the tournament coordinator, hopes it will reopen soon. He too said Mr Trump’s visit was positive. Carlos Esteves’s house overlooks what were once Mr Trump’s greens. An army veteran, he now works for the coast guard in the marine inspection division, and said the visit of his “boss” was welcome. “I think it’ll improve morale,” he said. “I would like to see more resources coming in from the mainland, but I think at the same time we need more guidance on how to get it around. “I’m a military man and I can tell you for a fact that the 192nd support battalion from the national guard has plenty of equipment, plenty of fuel, and desalination plants.” Asked why they are not being used, and he looks at the sky and starts whistling – diplomatically refusing to weigh in. Puerto Rico student rescues 90 birds from Hurricane Maria 00:23 A few doors down Charlie Robles is helping his son Emmanuel load a barrel of water into his truck, to drive to Emmanuel’s home in Fajardo. Mr Robles’s house has running water; his son’s does not. “We’re US citizens, but we’re not getting the help that other US citizens do,” he said. “I don’t like Trump, but if he comes and sees and makes things better, then that’s good.” Ricky Blazquez, a 25-year-old engineering student, said he hoped Mr Trump’s visit would improve the situation. But he was taking no chances, and had taken matters into his own hands. People walk next to a petrol station flooded and damaged by the impact of Hurricane Maria Credit: AP For the past five days Mr Blazquez has been queuing up at the petrol station to fill canisters and share them out among his neighbours. He has bought 100-150 gallons a day, he believes. “I have been working with my community to get things better here, because Maria hit us hard,” he said. “First I filled up my own, and then people asked me for help, so I gave them some and went back for more. “It was never a plan, but just ended up that way.” He hoped Tuesday’s visit will raise spirits. “It’s very important because everyone is despondent here. So I think it’ll make us do better.”


Trump says Puerto Rico should be 'proud' of hurricane death toll: 'Look at a real catastrophe like Katrina'

Trump says Puerto Rico should be 'proud' of hurricane death toll: 'Look at a real catastrophe like Katrina'Donald Trump has said Puerto Rico should be “very proud” of the death toll from Hurricane Maria, contrasting it to the “thousands” of people who died in Hurricane Katrina. At a meeting with Puerto Rican officials, Mr Trump encouraged those gathered to “look at a real catastrophe like Katrina” for perspective. “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people,” Mr Trump said.