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Hurricane Maria is a Category 5 storm responsible for more than 60 confirmed deaths and $58 billion in damages. The storm caused a humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico, where millions were left without clean water, food and electricity, causing wide-spread efforts to provide aide to the country, as well as criticism of the United States government's slow response to the crisis. Many compared the U.S. response to Maria's destruction to the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with some saying that the government's, and particularly President Donald Trump's, delayed response was due to racial, social and economic reasons.
Less than a month after Hurricane Irma, another Category 5 storm, on September 16th, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall. Over the few days of the storm, Maria intensified from tropical storm to a Category 5 storm. It eventually reached winds of 175 miles per hour and became the 10th most intense storm in the history of the Atlantic.
Leading up to the storm reaching land, people online began making jokes about the storm's name, "Maria," drawing comparisons to characters in the films The Sound of the Music and West Side Story. On September 19th, Heavy.com published a list of some of the memes about Hurricane Maria (examples below).
On September 20th, Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico, where some 80,000 people were already without power, following Hurricane Maria. The storm destroyed the power gird there, taking electricity from about 3.4 million people. The governor said that it would take months to repair.
Comparisons to Katrina
As the press continued to report on the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, some remarked on the similarities to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Throughout the week, some reporters started referring to the storm as Trump's Katrina, indicating that the size of the damage, death toll and slow response could be a political disaster for the presidency.
Criticism of U.S. Relief Efforts
In the immediate wake of Maria's destruction, little in the way of response that had been offered to recent hurricanes in Florida and Texas could be seen. The U.S. president had yet to wave to the Jones Act, which he done for the prior two storms, that would have allowed aide to be sent to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. As of September 25th, Puerto Rico residents claimed that they have seen little to know federal aide in the country. Some described it as a warzone, as if a "bomb went off." Over the next week, the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, Carmen Yulin Cruz began pleading for assistance for her most vulnerable citizens.
On September 28th, President Trump waived the Jones Act, which would allow aide to be sent. The following day, he delivered a speech at the National Association of Manufacturers, where he discussed the government's relief efforts towards Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. During the speech, he said:
"All of appropriate departments of our government, from Homeland Security to Defense, are engaged fully in the disaster, and the response and recovery effort probably has never been seen for something like this. This is an island. Surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water."
That day, Mayor Cruz also held a press conference in which she compared the lack of response "close to genocide." In the speech she said:
bq, "I am done being polite, and I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake. I’m asking members of the press to send a mayday call. We are dying here. If we don’t solve the logistics, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”
The next day, President Trump tweeted about the mayor (shown below), saying, "The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job."
That day, Cruz responded to Trump's tweets.
“The most powerful man in the world is concerned with a 5-foot-tall, 120-pound little mayor of the city of San Juan," she said. " I don’t have time for politics. There is a mission, and that is to save lives."
The following day, Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led the U.S. military's response during Katrina in 2005, responded to the president's tweets, as well resports that the president was attending a golf tournament over the weekend, as oppose to helping with the humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico. He said, "The mayor's living on a cot, and I hope the President has a good day at golf."
As criticism of Trump intensified, a list of Government Emergency Aid went viral (shown below). However, according to Snopes, the list is only partially true. For example, the 140 helicopters the lists claimed was only partially true. However, there is no evidence of army field hospitals being used and the same was true for nuclear submarines.
On October 3rd, Trump arrived in Puerto Rico to asses the damage, where he said that the country the U.S. budget "a little out of whack."
President Trump's Death Toll Tweet
On September 13th, 2018, President Trump tweeted in a series of two tweets, "3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000……..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!" The tweets (shown below) received more than 20,000 retweets and 85,000 likes in less than 24 hours.
Many were offended by President Trump's assertion because official tallies, reported by Puerto Rico's governor and a study by George Washington University, "raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64." San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted, "Mr Trump you can try and bully us with your tweets BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER. You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you!" The tweet (shown below, left) received more than 900 retweets and 2,600 likes in 24 hours.
Others agreed with Cruz, posting criticisms of Trump's claims. The New York Times's Nate Silver tweeted, "I know there's a lot of competition but this is the worst thing he's ever tweeted." The tweet (shown below, right) received more than 8,400 retweets and 31,000 likes in 24 hours.
Fox News Research's official Twitter account tweeted, "Hurricane Maria – Puerto Rico impact •Sept 20, 2017: Cat 4 landfall → 2 weeks after Irma passed •Every home/business lost power → Lasted 11 months •Some areas w/ 30+ inches of rain •~$94 billion in damage •GWU Study: 2,975 deaths → 8/28: PR accepted toll/revised from 64." The tweet (shown below, right) received more than 90 retweets and 195 likes in 24 hours.
#PuberMe is a hashtag campaign started by comedians Nick Kroll and Stephen Colbert in which they challenge celebrities to tweet awkward photos of themselves from their teenage years. For every photo tweeted with the hashtag, Colbert will make a donation from his AmeriCone Dream Fund, which Kroll will match, to aid Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Big Water refers to a popular catchphrase based on a speech made my United States President Donald Trump while explaining the difficulties with sending aide to Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria.
 The New York Times – Hurricane Maria Updates: In Puerto Rico, the Storm ‘Destroyed Us’
 NBC – Mayor Issues ‘S.O.S.’ as Puerto Ricans Scramble to Help Most Vulnerable
 NBC – Hurricane Maria: Puerto Ricans Plead for More Federal Aid to Devastated Island
 Twitter – @realDonaldTrump's Tweet
 The Washington Post – Trump called San Juan’s mayor a weak leader. Here’s what her leadership looks like.
 CNN – Trump tells Puerto Rico 'You've thrown our budget a little out of whack'
 Forbes – Puerto Rico: Could Hurricane Maria Become 'Trump's Katrina?'
 Slate – Trump Is Ignoring Puerto Rico’s Suffering
 CNN – Honoré: 'The mayor's living on a cot, and I hope the President has a good day at golf'
 The Washington Post – Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria
 Snopes – Is This Viral List of U.S. Government Emergency Aid Sent to Puerto Rico Accurate?
 Heavy – Hurricane Maria: All The Memes You Need to See
 Twitter – @realDonaldTrump's Tweet
 Twitter – @realDonaldTrump's Tweet
 CNN – Mayor: If Trump doesn't learn, God bless us all
 Twitter – @CarmenYulinCruz's Tweet
 Twitter – @NateSilver538's Tweet
 Twitter – @FoxNewsResearch's Tweet
Sep 13, 2018 at 03:07PM EDT
Sep 13, 2018 at 03:25PM EDT
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