FEMA administrator calls San Juan mayor's criticism of hurricane relief 'political noise'

Laura King, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Weather News

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration is brushing off new criticism from the mayor of San Juan over the federal government's recovery effort in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.

Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, dismissed the latest pleas for urgent assistance from the mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as "political noise."

"We filtered out the mayor a long time ago," Long said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" when asked about two early morning Twitter posts from Cruz, in which she said she had unsuccessfully sought help from FEMA after the power failed at a major hospital.

"Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA -- Brock. NOTHING! @POTUS," Cruz wrote.

Referring to FEMA, the mayor added sarcastically, "Oh sorry they are collecting data."

Last week, President Donald Trump suggested that Cruz is a "politically motivated ingrate." She had made a number of pointed public criticisms of the pace and scope of the federal relief effort after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico Sept. 20, wrecking the electricity grid and leaving many of its 3.4 million people desperate for food, water and gasoline.

Trump visited the U.S. territory Tuesday and praised the "amazing job" being done by federal officials in rushing in supplies and working to restore electricity and power. The president raised eyebrows when he alluded again to the cost of the recovery effort -- an observation he has not made about the ongoing expense of helping Texas and Louisiana after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma -- and told officials that they should be proud that the death toll had been low compared to that in the "real catastrophe" of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005.

The president repeated his self-congratulatory assessments about his administration's work in Puerto Rico again Saturday night in a television interview with the conservative former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, on the Christian cable network TBN.

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