On Friday morning, amid growing criticism of the government’s slow response to devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz reacted with anger to a Trump administration official who said the situation in her city and the rest of the U.S. territory amounts to a “good news story.”
“Well maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good-news story,” Cruz said on CNN, growing more agitated by the word as she responded to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke’s words. “Dammit, this is not a good-news story. This is a ‘people are dying’ story. It’s a life-or-death story.”
Cruz’s comments reflect the dire state of Puerto Rico ten days after Maria made landfall in the southeastern part of the island. Much in the country remains without clean water and food, while electricity is scarce and communications are virtually nonexistent.
“The response still is not where it needs to be, certainly it’s not,” Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello said on MSNBC Friday morning. “We do need more help.”
The Trump administration appeared to finally grasp the situation in Puerto Rico on Thursday when Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan was appointed to lead the military’s recovery efforts on the island. His first task will be to solve the problem of distributing supplies around an island with damaged roads and few phones or internet.
“We need someone in charge of that with the know-how of logistics, with the capability to restore logistics and with the authority to make decisions quickly,” Senator Marco Rubio said Thursday. After visiting the island on Monday he came away thinking that an organized supply chain was the island’s most vital need.
Mayor Cruz also mentioned this problem in an interview with the Post, citing a “bottleneck” that is costing people their lives. She said as many as seven people are dead after water and oxygen didn’t get to them in time.
The situation is especially dire at the 33 hospitals still open on the island. Patients are arriving in overwhelming numbers and in increasingly poor condition. With unreliable power and generators that need hundreds of gallons of fuel a day, surgeries have been delayed, medical records are a disaster, and patients are missing out on vital treatments such as dialysis. With no means of communication and roads damaged across the island, hospitals are also without some of the necessary services on which they typically depend, such as companies that cart away cadavers.
In a speech Friday, President Trump said there’s a “massive federal mobilization” underway to make sure supplies are transported to where they’re needed most. Indeed, the military is sending more troops and helicopters to the island to ensure that. But Trump also took time for a brief victory lap, despite the catastrophe unfolding on the island of 3.4 million.
On top of all the problems Puerto Rico is experiencing because of Maria, it’s bracing for more bad weather this weekend. With heavy rain on the way, the National Weather Service has issued a flash-flood warning that “will exacerbate the current situation,” the agency said.