Maria is the most powerful hurricane to strike Puerto Rico and Dominica in nearly a century.
Puerto Ricans are lashing out at US President Donald Trump after he accused the island’s leaders of wanting “everything done for them” as they cope with the devastation brought on by Hurricane Maria last month.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” Cruz said during a news conference on Friday. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. This is a people-are-dying story.”
Trump, who said he will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, responded to the mayor’s comments in a series of tweets on Saturday, commending emergency response teams and the US military for their “fantastic job” on the island.
He said Cruz showed “poor leadership”, adding that the island’s leaders “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort”.
His comments prompted many on social media to express anger over his administration’s handling of the relief efforts, with many pointing to how many of the US territory’s 3.4 million residents remain without electricity, drinking water and telephone communication.
If you're blaming Puerto Ricans for what's happening instead of Trump, remember to blame yourself when you don't have water after a disaster
— Pé (@4everNeverTrump) September 30, 2017
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) September 30, 2017
I love how Trump says that Puerto Ricans want everything done for them…
Have you not checked your life? Everything was done for you!
— Kaldreckis Ūrban (@Kaldreckis) October 1, 2017
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm on September 20, killing at least 16 people.
“Right now, this island is depending 100 percent on generators because the power grid was destroyed by the hurricane,” Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from San Juan, said on Saturday. “This is an example of how easily the situation could deteriorate here if immediate action is not taken.”
As politicians traded verbal blame, those familiar with the situation on the ground pointed to the dire humanitarian situation on the island.
I'm here. I'm hungry. I'm thirsty. And I have been helping everyone I can. Enjoy your golf.
— Ken Buck (@realGeorgeBuck) October 1, 2017
San Juan’s Cruz told Al Jazeera that the devastation on the island has not been “treated with the same sense of emergency that other disasters have been treated”.
She also said that the island’s residents “don’t have enough” and “need more to take care of this situation”.
Al Jazeera’s Bo added that “for most people here this fight is not a political one, but one for survival and they hope that those in charge will leave their differences aside and sort things out.”