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Trump: Puerto Rico in 'deep trouble' after Maria

US President Donald Trump has said Puerto Rico is in “deep trouble” as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria.

Maria was the most powerful hurricane to hit the US territory since 1932 and its strong winds and torrential rain left massive damage to homes and lives.

Most of the island’s 3.4 million people have spent five days without electricity, and officials have warned it could be months before the island is fully-powered again, due to the grid’s crumbling infrastructure.

Restoring power is not just about comfort or safety: the delay will see more people leave, in turn making it more difficult for the economy to recover.

The lack of power will also hit the tourism industry, which made up 8% of the economy last year.

Jaime Degraff sits outside as he tries to stay cool as people wait for the damaged electrical grid to be fixed after Hurricane Maria passed through the area on September 23, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Jaime Degraff sits outside to stay cool as he waits for the electrical grid to be fixed

Mr Trump tweeted that Texas and Florida, which had also seen storms in previous weeks, were “doing great” but Puerto Rico “which was already suffering from broken infrastructure and massive debt, is in deep trouble”.

He added: “Its old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated.

“Much of the island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

He did not offer any suggestions for how Puerto Rico might deal with the debt. It is already $72bn in the red and filed the biggest government bankruptcy in US history earlier this year.

Mr Trump has been criticised for an inadequate response to the hurricane and there has been relatively little coverage of Hurricane Maria’s devastation compared to the earlier Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue team conduct a search operation at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Yauco, Puerto Rico, September 25, 2017
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There is US help in Puerto Rico, such as these people from FEMA, but it has been criticised as not enough

The President is a regular Twitter user but the last time he updated his 39.2 million followers about the plight of Puerto Rico was 21 September, telling them to “stay safe”, adding: “We are with…the people of Puerto Rico.”

Since then he has tweeted at least 16 times about whether NFL players should stand, sit or kneel while the US national anthem is played before games and four times about arch enemy North Korea, among other topics.

But it took until late on Monday, five days after the hurricane, for him to get back to the weary residents of Puerto Rico.

A damaged banana plantation is seen in Guayama, Puerto Rico
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Important crops were destroyed, such as these bananas in Guayama, Puerto Rico

On Monday, Governor Ricardo Rossello asked for more government aid to prevent a humanitarian crisis on the island as it struggled to recover from the hurricane’s destruction with such limited resources.

Sarah Sanders, speaking for the White House, said the Trump administration is undertaking a fact-finding process to work out how much help was needed in Puerto Rico.

The news came as singer and actress Jennifer Lopez announced she was donating $1m to the island’s hurricane recovery efforts.

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