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San Juan mayor slams Trump official for saying Puerto Rico response is a ‘good news story’

Click to play video: 'Trump says efforts in Puerto Rico going ‘really well’' Trump says efforts in Puerto Rico going ‘really well’
WATCH ABOVE: U.S. President Trump remarked that relief efforts for Puerto Rico are going "really well" in the wake of Hurricane Maria – Sep 29, 2017

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump pledged a relentless effort to help Puerto Ricans recover from hurricane devastation Friday after his homeland security chief stirred a tempest of her own making by declaring the federal response a “good news story.”

Elaine Duke, the department’s acting secretary, drew a sharp rebuke from San Juan’s mayor for seeming to play down the suffering.

“When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told CNN on Friday. “Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story.”

READ MORE: Royal Caribbean sends ship on humanitarian mission to Puerto Rico, nearly 2,000 evacuated

Trump said Puerto Rico is “totally unable” to handle the catastrophe on its own. “They are working so hard but there’s nothing left,” he said. “It’s been wiped out.” He said all appropriate agencies of the government “are fully engaged in the disaster and the response and recovery effort.”

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WATCH: Trump touts ‘massive’ recovery effort for Puerto Rico
Click to play video: 'Trump touts ‘massive’ recovery effort for Puerto Rico' Trump touts ‘massive’ recovery effort for Puerto Rico
Trump touts ‘massive’ recovery effort for Puerto Rico – Sep 29, 2017

Yet even in voicing solidarity and sympathy, he drew attention again to Puerto Rico’s pre-hurricane debt burden and infrastructure woes, leaving doubt how far Washington will go to make the U.S. territory whole.

“Ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort – it will end up being one of the biggest ever – will be funded and organized, and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island,” he said. “We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.”

Earlier he tweeted: “The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!”

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READ MORE: Trump tweets on Puerto Rico show confidence in aid, despite harsh criticism

WATCH: Officials warn death toll in Puerto Rico could rise if emergency supplies don’t arrive soon
Click to play video: 'Officials warn death toll in Puerto Rico could rise if emergency supplies don’t arrive soon' Officials warn death toll in Puerto Rico could rise if emergency supplies don’t arrive soon
Officials warn death toll in Puerto Rico could rise if emergency supplies don’t arrive soon – Sep 27, 2017

Duke visited the island Friday to survey damage and meet local officials. Asked about her Thursday “good news” comment, she said: “There is so much more to do. We will never be satisfied. That is why we are here.” She had described “our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths” as the good news.

“Let me clarify,” she said Friday, explaining that she meant “it was good news that people of Puerto Rico and many public servants of the United States are working together.”

Trump has come out with a flurry of boasts in recent days about the positive reviews he said his administration is getting from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for its relief effort. Many in the devastated zones have said help is scarce and disorganized and food supplies are dwindling in some remote towns after Hurricane Maria.

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WATCH: Trump says Puerto Rico and U.S. government must work together in recovery, references debt 
Click to play video: 'Trump says Puerto Rico and U.S. government must work together in recovery, references debt' Trump says Puerto Rico and U.S. government must work together in recovery, references debt
Trump says Puerto Rico and U.S. government must work together in recovery, references debt – Sep 29, 2017

Trump is expected to survey the damage Tuesday.

 

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