With questions being raised by lawmakers in both parties about USA disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria, President Donald Trump on Friday raised the specter of a more limited government response in the American territory of Puerto Rico, writing on Twitter that "big decisions" will have to be made about the future of the island.
Maria hit Puerto Rico more than a week ago, leaving the island without power and many people without drinking water.
The storm claimed more than 30 lives across the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rossello has called the scope of the island's devastation unprecedented.
More troops, medical supplies and vehicles were on the way to the island, but it will be some time before the United States territory is back on its feet, the senior U.S. general appointed to lead military relief operations said on Friday. U.S. President Donald Trump on September 28 waived the Jones Act, which officials had said was making relief efforts hard.
In his tweets Saturday, Trump praised the military and first responders for "an unbelievable job".
"This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water", he said. "It's chaos, total chaos", he said.
Trump's acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, visited the island Friday, surveying the ravaged landscape by helicopter in an hourlong tour, driving past still-flooded streets, twisted billboards and roofs with gaping holes, and offering encouragement to some of the 10,000 emergency personnel she says the US government has on the ground.
Ms. Duke traveled to Puerto Rico on Friday and tried to smooth over the flap, agreeing that the situation on the ground "is not satisfactory".
No such clause now exists in the disaster declaration for Puerto Rico.
At least 10,000 containers of supplies - including food, water and medicine - were sitting Thursday at the San Juan port, waiting to be deployed throughout the USA territory.
Clearing cargo deliveries at the San Juan port remained slow, and several newly arrived tankers were waiting for a chance to unload their fuel, according to Thomson Reuters shipping data.
Thousands more Puerto Ricans have been getting water and rationed food as an aid bottleneck began to ease. He has staunchly defended the Trump administration for its relief response, which Trump noted in one of his Thursday night Twitter posts. About 80% of the island's electricity transmission lines and 100% of distribution lines to homes and businesses are damaged. The overarching challenge, Rubio said, is the lack of logistics and communication between San Juan and the municipalities.
The island has also seen the gradual reopening of hundreds of gasoline stations during the past few days, while a number of supermarket chains were also returning to business, Fema a officials said.
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