The president, speaking just before a briefing on Hurricane recovery efforts, said that he will visit Puerto Rico and perhaps the U.S. Virgin Islands next week to inspect the damage, meet with officials, survivors, and first responders.
Trump said that next Tuesday is likely the first chance he could go without disrupting ongoing recovery efforts.
“Puerto Rico is very important to me,” he said. “And Puerto Rico, the people, are very important to me.”
Trump remarked Monday on Twitter about the devastation on the island territory.
“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” he tweeted. “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well.”
Restoration of power will take months, but bringing the island back as a hub of Carribean tourism could take years – an economic hit that an already bankrupt region will struggle to survive.
The fact that Puerto Rico is distant from the mainland and is an island is slowing aid efforts. Damage to the major airport is extensive and restricting capacity. Just 16 commercial flights arrived and departed on Monday. Boarding passes are filled out by hand, the air traffic control system is severely damaged and the number of military and aid flights is consuming most of the airports capacity.
The cargo port is still closed despite it being a priority. While military flights are creating an “air bridge” to bring in food, medical supplies, and generators, Cargo ships can move more supplies, more efficiently. Being able to receive supplies by ship would also free up capacity at the airport for commercial flights.