With Donald Trump‘s tepid response to Hurricane Maria-ravaged areas having infuriated thousands on social media, the Congressional Black Caucus is calling out the president for his infuriating missteps. The inadequate relief efforts in U.S. Virgins Islands is “unacceptable,” said Cedric Richmond, chairman of the CBC in a letter Thursday.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria inflicted severe damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands and left seven people dead and thousands without food, water and shelter, Richmond wrote. The islands were still without basic resources more than a week after landfall, and Richmond was urging 45 to provide medical supplies and shelter immediately. The CBC chair was also asking for the appointment of a “central coordinating” official to assess “disaster-related needs” and coordinate an interagency response.
“The United States Virgin Islands need our help and they need it now,” Richmond, wrote. “I urge you to immediately provide supplies and medical equipment, including medical ships, and assist rescue and evacuation efforts. I urge you to provide desperately-needed manpower to get supplies out of containers and into the hands of the people who need them.”
He continued: “I also urge you to utilize all available resources to provide short- and long-term shelter for displaced Americans, including creative, previously successful means, such as cruise ships and flotels.”
The islands, like Puerto Rico, face unique challenges. Irma demolished the only hospital on St. Thomas, and the main hospital on St. Croix can only provide emergency services with one operating room. Sick residents are without much-needed medical attention, with more than 90 percent of the three poverty-stricken islands lacking electricity, which may take months to be fully restored.
Trump has yet to sign a Maria relief bill, and donations lag in comparison to those from Hurricane Harvey and Irma, CNN reported.
Maria’s response bears resemblance to that of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans’ predominantly Black and poor communities in 2005.
Richmond, who has represented Louisiana in Congress since 2011, reminded the president that he experienced first-hand the government’s “failure” in properly responding to Katrina, which positioned race as a major issue.
“So I am keenly sensitive to the needs of families still reeling from the destruction of natural disasters and the critical importance of a swift and efficient federal response,” he wrote.
If history proves anything, the slow response to Maria by Trump will become another racial focal point of his presidency, just as Katrina become one for President George W. Bush’s final term.