WASHINGTON — President Trump gives himself high marks for his response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, even though there is a widespread lack of power and drinking water on the island about a month after the storm struck.
After Trump met with Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, in the Oval Office on Thursday, he spoke to reporters and Yahoo News asked, on a scale of one to 10, how he’d grade his handling of the hurricane.
“I’d say it was a 10,” Trump said.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. The storm was a Category 5, the top rating on the hurricane scale. Earlier last month, the island was damaged by Hurricane Irma. Currently, about 78 percent of Puerto Rico is without power and 28 percent of the island lacks reliable drinking water.
After praising his response to the hurricane damage on Puerto Rico, Trump went on to marvel at the magnitude of the devastation.
“I’d say it was probably the most difficult — when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved. If you look at the number, I mean this was, I think, it was worse than Katrina. It was in many ways worse than anything people have ever seen,” said Trump.
Earlier this month, Trump said Puerto Rico didn’t suffer a “real catastrophe” on the scale of Hurricane Katrina.
Speaking Thursday, Trump reiterated his high grade for the storm response after describing the strength of the hurricanes that hit the island.
“They got hit by a Category 4, grazed, but grazed about, you know, a big portion of the island. … That was bad, but then they got hit dead center, if you look at those maps, by a Category 5,” said Trump, adding, “Nobody’s ever heard of a five hitting land. Usually by that time, it’s dissipated. It hit right through. It kept to a five. It hit right through the middle of the island, right through the middle of Puerto Rico. There’s never been anything like that. I give ourselves a 10.”
Yahoo News also asked Rossello how he’d rate the White House’s hurricane response on a scale of one to 10, but the governor declined to offer a numerical grade.
“The president has answered all of our petitions. … This is still ongoing, so we expect that that’ll continue,” Rossello said, adding, “We set some very aggressive milestones to restore energy in Puerto Rico … about 30 percent of the energy by the end of the month, by the middle of next month about 50 percent, and so on.”
Trump then asked Rossello to gauge the White House’s response.
“Governor, I just want to maybe ask you a question,” Trump said. “Did the United States, did our government, when we come in, did we do a great job? Military, first responders, FEMA, did we do a great job?”
Rossello complimented the Trump administration’s handling of the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.
“You responded immediately, sir,” said Rossello. “We recognize that there are some logistical limitations that we have in Puerto Rico. We didn’t have the ports open for a couple of days. We didn’t have the airports working at full capacity until about a day or two ago. So, that was always a great limiting step. But if you consider that we’ve gotten, even with those obstacles, we’ve gotten about 15,000 DOD personnel in Puerto Rico, about 2,000 FEMA personnel, HHS and others. The response is there.”
Rossello went on to acknowledge that “we need to do a lot more.”
“I think everyone over here recognizes there’s a lot of work to be done in Puerto Rico. But with your leadership, sir, and with everybody over here, we’re committed to achieving that in the long run,” Rossello said.
Puerto Rico’s power grid was in bad condition prior to the storms, a fact which was repeatedly cited by both Trump and Rossello on Thursday. When Trump was asked how long it would take to restore full power to the island, he said it was a “good question” and would likely “take a while.”
“We have to build a brand new plant or we have to do essentially a renovation that’s so large it’s going to be like a brand new plant. One or the other, we’re looking at both right now,” Trump said. “But there’s never been a case where power plants were gone. You can’t just fix the poles. There’s never been a place where power plants were gone, so it’s going to be a period of time before the electric is restored.”
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