President Donald Trump defended the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, telling reporters the government did a “fantastic job” in its response.
On Thursday, the Puerto Rican government raised its death toll from the storm to 2,975 from its original estimate of 64. But during a drug prevention event at the White House on Wednesday, Trump lauded his government’s response to the 2017 disaster and said the island’s governor, Ricard Rosselló, is “very happy with the job we’ve done.”
Trump said the government had put “billions and billions of dollars” into Puerto Rico, which was “a very tough one.” He also blamed mismanagement of the island, a territory of the United States, before the hurricane for some of its troubles.
“Don’t forget their electric plant was dead before the hurricane,” he said. “If you look back on your records, you’ll see that that plant was dead, it was shut, it was bankrupt, it was out of business.”
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) announced just two weeks ago that it has finally reconnected all 1.5 million of its customers to the power grid.
Hurricane Maria did devastating damage when it made landfall to Puerto Rico last year. It knocked out power, displaced thousands of people, and as the latest government numbers reveal, killed nearly 3,000 people.
Trump on Wednesday said that helping Puerto Rico was “more difficult” than providing assistance to Texas, which was hit by Hurricane Harvey last year, and Florida, which was hit by Hurricane Irma, because they’re “land-based” and Puerto Rico isn’t.
“You know, Texas healed quickly, and the people were incredible,” he said. “Florida healed quickly, and everybody worked very hard. Puerto Rico was actually more difficult because of the fact it’s an island, it’s much harder to get things onto the island.”
Of Puerto Rico, he said he hopes “they don’t get hit again.”
Trump’s full comments are below.
I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico, we’re still helping Puerto Rico. The governor is an excellent guy, and he is very happy with the job we’ve done. We have put billions and billions of dollars into Puerto Rico, and it was a very tough one.
Don’t forget their electric plant was dead before the hurricane. If you look back on your records, you’ll see that that plant was dead, it was shut, it was bankrupt, it was out of business. They owed tremendous amounts of money, they had it closed up, and then when the hurricane came people said, “What are we doing to do about electricity?”
That wasn’t really the hurricane, that was gone before the hurricane. But we’ve put a lot of money and a lot of effort into Puerto Rico, and I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.
You know, Texas healed quickly, and the people were incredible. Florida healed quickly, and everybody worked very hard. Puerto Rico was actually more difficult because of the fact it’s an island, it’s much harder to get things onto the island. With Texas, you’re land-based, with Florida, you’re land-based. Puerto Rico was a very difficult situation.
I only hope they don’t get hit again, because they were hit by two right in a row, really the likes of which we have never seen before.