President Donald Trump on Tuesday told officials in Puerto Rico that they can be “very proud” that the death toll from Hurricane Maria was not as high as that of “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”
Trump traveled to Puerto Rico on Tuesday to address damage the United States territory suffered as a result of Hurricane Maria amid criticism that his administration has not done enough to help residents of Puerto Rico, who are U.S. citizens.
“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous—hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died,” Trump said during a press conference. “And you look at what happened here with really a storm that’s just totally overpowering. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”
The president then confirmed that officials had certified 16 deaths as a result of Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm. “Sixteen people versus in the thousands,” Trump said, apparently referring to Hurricane Katrina, which federal and state agencies estimate killed some 1,500 people in Louisiana and surrounding areas. The precise death toll from the 2005 storm remains unknown, with estimates ranging from nearly 1,000 to more than 1,800.
Here's Trump comparing the death count in Puerto Rico to the death count in a "real catastrophe like Katrina" pic.twitter.com/lNCz4wYvMn— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) October 3, 2017
Two weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, less than 7 percent of the country’s power grid has been restored, and just 45 percent of residents have access to running water, according to Puerto Rico’s government.
Prior to his Katrina comments, Trump jokingly berated Puerto Rico for its financial difficulties.
“I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine,” Trump said. “We’ve saved a lot of lives.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spent $13.4 billion to rebuilt parts of Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina, $9.9 billion of which came from FEMA’s so-called C-G assistance program, which aims to rebuild critical infrastructure for long-term storm preparedness. FEMA has not yet authorized its full disaster relief response for Puerto Rico, as it did for Texas after devastating flooding in Houston and surrounding areas, reports Vox.
Oxfam, a non-profit that aims to alleviate poverty, criticized the Trump administration for its “slow and inadequate response” to the disaster in Puerto Rico.
“Oxfam has monitored the response in Puerto Rico closely, and we are outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US government has mounted in Puerto Rico,” Abby Maxman, president of Oxfam America, said in a statement. “Clean water, food, fuel, electricity, and healthcare are in desperately short supply and quickly dwindling, and we’re hearing excuses and criticism from the administration instead of a cohesive and compassionate response.”