Puerto Rico: Trump paper towel-throwing ‘abominable’

The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, has described Donald Trump’s visit to the hurricane-hit island as “insulting” and called him a “miscommunicator-in-chief”.

Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz described his televised meeting with officials as a “PR, 17-minute meeting”.

The sight of him throwing paper towels to people in the crowd was “terrible and abominable”, she added.

Mr Trump tweeted it had been a “great day” in Puerto Rico.

But he also took another swipe at the reporting of his trip.

Tuesday’s five-hour presidential trip to San Juan came two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, and followed complaints that the US government’s handling of the storm’s aftermath was too slow.

Only 7% of the island has power and more remote parts of the island – a US territory – have been without food, water and basic medical aid.

During his televised meeting with emergency responders and officials of Puerto Rico, he went out of his way to praise – and seek compliments for – the federal response.

“Every death is a horror,” the president said, “but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous – hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”

He then turned to the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosello, and asked how many people had died in the storm.

“Seventeen? Sixteen people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands,” Mr Trump said, referring to the 2005 hurricane that killed 1,833 people in New Orleans.

Governor Rosello later clarified that the number of people in Puerto Rico killed by Maria had increased to 34.

Mr Trump also pointed to the impact of the cost of storm recovery on US domestic spending, which was already facing a budget shortfall of $72bn (£54bn), telling Puerto Ricans “you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack… but that’s fine”.

After his meeting, he toured in and around San Juan, stopping at a church to hand out relief supplies and throwing paper towels into the crowd.

At one point he reportedly glanced at a pile of solar-powered flashlights and – apparently unaware of the ongoing power problems – said “you don’t need ’em anymore”, the Washington Post reports.

Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told MSNBC after the visit that his meeting with officials had been a PR exercise in which “there was no exchange with anybody, with none of the mayors”. (Courtesy BBC)

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