US President Donald Trump has hit back at complaints that he has been slow to provide relief for Puerto Rico, after the US territory was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.
Trump instead praised his administration for “doing a really good job” with disaster relief.
He said he would pay a visit on October 3 to Puerto Rico, as well as to the US Virgin Islands, a neighboring Caribbean territory struggling to recover from two major hurricanes in a single month.
Democratic leaders in Congress and some residents in Puerto Rico have accused the administration of being more sluggish in its response than it would to a disaster on the US mainland, even though Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million inhabitants are US citizens.
The criticism was heightened by a series of Twitter messages by Trump on Monday about hurricane damage on Puerto Rico in which he also referred to the island’s $72 billion debt crisis and bankruptcy.
“Much of the Island has been destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with,” he tweeted.
Maria roared ashore Puerto Rico last Wednesday as the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century.
The storm has claimed more than 30 lives across the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico.
Maria was downgraded to a tropical storm on Tuesday, far off the coast of North Carolina.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the island needed 1,000 to 1,500 additional security personnel and at least another 200 generators, as well as fuel for them.
“With all due respect, President Trump, relief efforts are not ‘doing well,'” Schumer said.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz strongly criticised Trump for focusing on the island’s financial woes in his tweets.
“You don’t put debt above people, you put people above debt,” she told CNN.
But Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said he was satisfied with the administration’s relief efforts and called Trump’s performance “excellent.”
“They have responded very quickly,” he said.
He cited swift disaster declarations issued by Trump and a six-month waiver of FEMA’s cost-sharing requirements.