Former Disaster Chief Explains Why Trump's Puerto Rico Comments Are So Appalling

"EVERY fatal catastrophe is a 'real catastrophe,' FFS," Jeremy Konyndyk tweeted.

Within hours of arriving in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. island territory, President Donald Trump informed residents that they were fortunate not to have suffered a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina.

“What is your death count, as of this moment?” he asked, during his one-day visit. “Sixteen people, versus in the thousands,” he said, comparing the tragedy to Katrina, which struck the U.S. in 2005.

“You can be very proud,” Trump continued, patting Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on the arm. He will also speak with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whom he attacked on Twitter last week after she asked for help.

The president went on to remind the storm victims, who have spent many days waiting for clean water and electricity, of their debt problems and crisis-related expenses: “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said.

The White House has been criticized for its “slow” and “inadequate” response to the crisis, despite Trump’s claims that his administration is “getting great marks.”

The storm left many of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents without basic necessities including food and fuel. The president explained last week that aid delivery has been particularly challenging because “this is an island, sitting in the middle of an ocean, and it’s a big ocean. It’s a very big ocean.”

His latest comments incensed many Americans, including Jeremy Konyndyk, the former director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Konyndyk, who led the U.S. government’s response to international disasters from 2013 to 2017, turned to Trump’s favorite platform to vent his frustration:

“Apologies for being so long winded,” Konyndyk said, concluding his tweetstorm with a final thought: “Don’t tweet angry.”

If only Trump would take the advice.

Read Konyndyk’s full tweet thread here.



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