San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Friday angrily slammed acting Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke's claims that the government's response to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico is "good news," insisting that the situation on the U.S. territory is one of life and death.
"Damn it, this is not a good news story," Cruz told CNN "New Day" co-anchor Alisyn Camerota, after she was played a recording of comments Duke had made on Thursday. "This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story."
"This is, there's a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people story," said Cruz. "This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water. If I could scream it a lot more louder, it's not a good news story when people are dying when they don't have dialysis, and when the generators aren't working and the oxygen is not providing for them. Where is there good news here?"
Duke on Thursday told reporters at the White House that she is "very satisfied" with the government's response to the Puerto Rican emergency.
"I know it's a hard storm to recover from but, the amount of progress that's been made, and I really would appreciate any support that we get," said Duke. "I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane."
"Well, maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story," Cruz responded. "When you are drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings -- I'm sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me."
She said she'd ask Duke to come visit the towns that were hit before making an "irresponsible" statement like she did.
"It contrasts with the statements of support that I have been getting since yesterday, when I got that call from the White House," said Cruz.
Duke said that after she spoke to CNN on Thursday, and noted there were several supply containers sitting at the port and that there was trouble getting the materials out to those who needed them, she got a call from the White House and FEMA was immediately deployed.
However, matters are desperate not only in San Juan, but outside the city as well.
I had a mayor coming to me last night crying, saying 'I have no food, no water, no medicine for my people,'" said Cruz. "'Can you spare me whatever is left over from San Juan?'"
The situation, though, is happening around the island, said Cruz, and it's difficult to get around the logistics problem.
"There is no energy at the ports so we cannot lower the containers, so you do it the old fashion way and you open the doors and have a line of people and you move it with people, and you move it back and forth and make sure that supply chain starts running steadily," she told Camerota. "In a town of 20,000 people, when you get two pallets of rations, that's not going to do much...that's about 4,132 bottles of water for a population of 350,000."
Cruz said she does feel "privileged and thankful and very hopeful" that she got a call from the White House.
"I let them know that San Juan could be a point of distribution, and we are closer in going to the northeastern part of the island," Cruz said, but noted that the logistics nightmare was not anticipated.
"Let's fix it," aid Cruz. "Let's drone out and drop things and let's parachute things out and drop things. Let's get people out there. Sometimes the most difficult problems are solved in the most simple ways."
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