- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2017

President Trump said Friday that Puerto Rico has been “wiped out” by Hurricane Maria and recovery efforts are “starting from scratch.”

“There’s nothing left. It’s been wiped out,” Mr. Trump said in Washington. “The roads are washed away. There is no electricity. The plants are gone. Sewer systems wiped out. There’s never been anything like this. There remains a lot of work to do.”

Facing criticism that relief efforts have been too slow, Mr. Trump said his administration has undertaken “a massive federal mobilization,” including more than 5,000 military personnel and national guard.

“All appropriate departments of our government … are engaged fully,” he said.

Part of the problems include the island’s relative isolation from the mainland and weakened infrastructure and debt.

“This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water,” Mr. Trump said. “The police and truck drivers are substantially gone … and largely unable to help. We’re forced to bring in truck drivers, security and many, many other personnel by the thousands. We’re bringing them onto the island as we speak. We’ve never seen situation like this.”

He said the island’s electric grid and infrastructure “were at their life’s end prior to the hurricanes. Now virtually everything has been wiped out. We’re literally starting from scratch.”

Referring to Puerto Rico’s debt default crisis that has been years in the making, Mr. Trump said ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with Washington to “determine how this will be funded and organized and what [to] do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island.”

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