The Washington Post reports that President Trump has come under fire for embroiling himself in a controversy over NFL protests while giving scant attention to a major crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both sustained heavy damage during Hurricane Maria.
Hillary Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were two of many Democrats who urged the Trump administration to do something.
Clinton suggested dispatching the relief vessel USNS Comfort, and Pelosi asked the administration to make Department of Defense resources available to the island territories.
The administration said efforts were already underway and being coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Over 10,000 federal employees, 13 Coast Guard cutters, National Guard troops, and barges carrying relief supplies have been dispatched to the distressed areas.
However, recovery officials said damaged ports and airports make it difficult to receive and move supplies. The U.S. Navy cited this as the reason the Comfort was still docked in Virginia.
Residents of both Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands said there has been little sign of any governmental response. Cellular service remains intermittent, and many roads are still blocked.
Lisandra Alicea, who was attempting to navigate the roads to reach her mother, said, “How are we supposed to receive help if no one knows we are here?” Alicea has not heard from her mother since Maria hit on Wednesday.
Soraida Sierra Matias and her husband Wilfredo Cruz, whose home was destroyed by the hurricane, told an interviewer they had received no supplies and heard no news.
Trump, who did not comment on the crisis over the weekend, tweeted about it on Monday evening. His tweets focused on infrastructure in the island territories and debts owed to Wall Street and bankers.
Adm. Paul Zukunft, who is commanding the Coast Guard ships, sympathized with the residents.
“They feel isolated, and they’re probably getting a sense of betrayal, of well, ‘Where is the cavalry?’” he said.
The U.S. military said it has responded as effectively as it can, given the damage to the ports. According to officials, reopening the ports is essential for the most efficient flow of supplies.
However, a number of legislators believe the government could and should be doing more. In response to the crisis, some lawmakers have appealed to President Trump for a new federal entity that will share responsibility for Puerto Rico.