WASHINGTON — With Hurricane Florence poised to slam into the Carolinas in the next two days, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his administration had done an A-plus job in responding to hurricanes that ravaged Texas and Florida in 2017, as he again defended how the feds dealt with extensive damage to the U.S. island of Puerto Rico.
“I think, in a certain way, the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that,” the President said, blaming bad infrastructure on the island for the slow recovery in power and water.
“I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success,” Mr. Trump told reporters after a briefing in the Oval Office by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the threat from Hurricane Florence, which forecasters believe will come ashore on Friday, possibly as a strong Category 3 storm.
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The President’s remarks came in the wake of a study of deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which estimated that nearly 3,000 people died because of the hurricane – dramatically higher than the original official death toll of 64 people.
In Congress, Democrats expressed outrage at the President’s remarks about the federal response on Puerto Rico.
“Thousands of Americans died in Puerto Rico, partly because of the Trump administration’s incompetence,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“Nearly 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). “We need an investigation not delusional bluster.”
“Americans expect their presidents to own up to their failures,” added House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But in President Trump’s opinion, his administration did everything it should have.
“Texas, we had been given A-pluses for. Florida, we’ve been given A-pluses for,” the President added, referring to hurricanes which ravaged those states a year ago.
At the briefing, both the President and the head of FEMA urged people living in coastal regions, or in areas prone to flooding, to heed the warnings of local officials and move inland.
“What’s your message, Mr. President, to people who might not have evacuated yet?” a reporter asked.
“Well, that’s very risky. I mean, again, we’ve never seen anything quite like this on the East Coast, at least,” Mr. Trump added.
FEMA Director Brock Long told reporters that he sees Florence as a combination of Hurricane Hugo – which devastated the Charleston, South Carolina region and inland areas in 1989 – and Hurricane Floyd in 1989, which came ashore in the southern part of North Carolina, and caused major flooding problems.
“I’d like to point out that what we learned last year is we have got to build a true culture of preparedness within our citizens here in America,” Long told reporters, trying to send a message to those who might be impacted to get themselves ready for Florence – just in case.
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