The U.S. territory has suffered widespread devastation, leaving residents grappling with “apocalyptic” conditions in the midst of a humanitarian disaster, according to local officials. Millions of Americans remain without power and basic necessities.
“Puerto Rico needs a lot of money. I’m going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday [for a] scheduled trip,” said Trump. “It’s the earliest I can go because of the first responders, and we don’t want to disrupt the relief efforts.”
Aid work in Puerto Rico has been especially challenging, the president explained, because “this is an island, sitting in the middle of an ocean, and it’s a big ocean. It’s a very big ocean.”
On Tuesday, Trump authorized an increase in federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures, according to a press release.
“That island was hit as hard as you can hit,” he said. “Literally houses are just demolished. It was like tornadoes. It was like having hundreds of tornadoes.”
Trump added that he may visit the U.S. Virgin Islands as well, which are also recovering from damage in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, but did not offer details.
At a press conference later on Tuesday with Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy, Trump reiterated that his government “is doing a great job” in responding to the humanitarian crisis on the island.
“Everybody has said, it’s amazing the job we’ve done in Puerto Rico,” the president told reporters, disputing criticism that the federal response has not been fast and extensive enough. “We are going to do far more than anybody else would ever be able to do,” he added.