SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – The mayor of the capital of Puerto Rico hit back on Friday at the comments of a top U.S. official who said federal efforts to help the territory recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria is “a good news story.”
“This is not a good news story,” Carmen Yulin Cruz told CNN on Friday. “This is a ‘people are dying story.’ This is a life-or-death story.”
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who is helping coordinate U.S. help after Maria, said on Thursday she was satisfied with the response so far.
“I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane,” Duke said.
Maria, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has killed at least 16 people on the island and more than 30 across the Caribbean.
As most of the island’s 3.4 million residents faced a 10th day without power and struggled to find clean water and fuel, Cruz bristled at Duke’s comment.
“This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water,” Cruz said on CNN. “It is not good news when people are dying.”
Duke arrived in Puerto Rico on Friday for a previously scheduled trip, joining Governor Ricardo Rossello for an aerial tour of the island.
U.S. President Donald Trump was scheduled to go Puerto Rico on Tuesday, while Vice President Mike Pence will be in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands late next week, an aide said.
Trump addressed the situation on Friday before a speech in Washington about his new tax plan.
“The electrical grid and other infrastructure were already in very, very poor shape. They were at their life’s end prior to the hurricanes,” said Trump. “And now virtually everything has been wiped out, and we will have to really start all over again. We’re literally starting from scratch.”