President Trump said Tuesday that more supplies were on the way to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria left the island nearly destroyed.
“Thank you to Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, for your kind words on FEMA etc.We are working hard. Much food and water there/on way,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with high-volume winds, and flooding has left the island nearly without power. Other supplies have also run scarce as many from the surrounding islands fled to Puerto Rico ahead of Maria’s landfall.
At a news conference, Mr. Trump said the U.S. is “doing everything in our power to help the hard-hit people” of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Our nation has been tested by the destructive force of Mother Nature,” the president said. But he said the U.S. has an even stronger force in the spirit of the American people.
“The recovery process will be a very, very difficult one,” Mr. Trump said. “We will be stronger, we will be bigger, we will be better.”
The Federal Emergency Management Administration is on site.
“The president very proactively approved 100 percent reimbursement for the first 180 days of this response to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said to reporters Tuesday.
Ten ships and barges carrying supplies and thousands of U.S. troops were en route to the island, Mr. Long said, characterizing the troops as a “stabilization force.”
Earlier, Mr. Trump amended the disaster declaration to authorize the federal government to pay for 100 percent of the cost of debris removal and other emergency assistance provided to Puerto Rico, which was financially strained before the storm hit.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Congress will act when it receives the necessary information from the administration to send aid.
“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Ryan said at a press conference on Tuesday. “This is our country, and these are our fellow citizens. I want the people of Puerto Rico to know that we are in this with them.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said that many elderly residents have been found in “near-death” conditions.
“No food, no water, no electricity and really the sanitary conditions were deplorable,” Ms. Cruz said Tuesday on CNN.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselió said the island is facing a “humanitarian crisis” if additional supplies are not sent soon.
“This is an unprecedented event. There needs to be unprecedented relief for Puerto Rico so that we can start the immediate effort right now with the deployment of resources,” Mr. Rosselió said on MSNBC. “If we have that, we can avoid a humanitarian crisis in the United States. If we don’t have that, you will see thousands, if not millions, of Puerto Ricans flocking to the United States.”
He said the Trump administration has been helpful, but the severity of the situation is unlike anything previously experienced on the island.
Mr. Trump said Monday night that much of the devastation was “suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt” before Maria hit. He said the debt situation “sadly, must be dealt with.”
Before the hurricane, Puerto Rico defaulted on more than $70 billion owed to creditors.
Lawmakers have called on the administration to act with more urgency.
“The crisis for these Americans needs more attention — and more urgency from the executive branch. The potable water problems are substantial,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, tweeted.
Sen. Marco Rubio visited the island and said the hurricane’s destruction was “tremendous.”
“Returning from #PuertoRico now. Tremendous damage. Potential for serious crisis in areas outside of #SanJuan MUST get power crews in ASAP,” Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican, tweeted.
• S.A. Miller contributed to this story.