By Renee Lewis / Source TRT World
US President Donald Trump tossed out rolls of paper towels to a crowd in Puerto Rico during his visit on Tuesday and downplayed the effects of Hurricane Maria, which has killed at least 16 people and destroyed much of the US territory.
“If you look at a real catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina … and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering,” Trump told government officials, referring to the 2005 hurricane that devastated Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana.
His dismissive actions and comments about the calamity that resulted as Hurricane Maria struck on September 20 drew strong reactions from many on social media who criticised the president for showing a serious lack of empathy.
Meanwhile, accounts of the destruction in Puerto Rico were shocking.
“Almost every tree has fallen or has no leaves left,” Leslie Lopez told TRT Worldfrom Amsterdam, Netherlands, recounting what he’d heard from friends and family in Puerto Rico after the hurricane.
“There are floods everywhere,” Lopez added.
Hurricane Maria was the most powerful storm to hit the United States territory in almost 90 years.
Maria knocked out communications, blocked roads, and left many on the Caribbean island without access to clean water, medicine and other necessities.
Friends and family of people on the island were frantic to get in touch with their loved ones after the hurricane.
Lopez was one of them. He’d been lucky to reach his brother and some friends in the days after Maria struck, and they told him about the desolation. The Puerto Rico they described was shocking, he said.
“There are long cues for food and gasoline and other basic necessities that last for hours, and sometimes, after waiting all that time, they are told that everything is finished and they need to come back the next day,” Lopez said.
Lopez, a musician, is putting together a benefit to help provide aid to Puerto Rico.
After days without humanitarian aid arriving, and only limited recovery efforts, some in Puerto Rico were getting desperate.
“We’re going to be feeling this for a really long time, long after the lights come back on and the streets get cleared. There isn’t a tree that isn’t damaged,” Brian Aaronson told the media website Grist over the phone.
On Tuesday, only six percent of people on the island had electricity, and nearly 90 percent of cell sites were still down, according to Puerto Rican officials.
“How do you rebuild a whole island? I don’t even know what that means,” Aaronson added.
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