Large swaths of Puerto Rico are still without electricity or access to clean drinking water after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island, including the City of Guaynabo, where President Trump infamously chucked rolls of paper towel into the crowd during his recent visit.
News of the dire circumstances in Guaynabo comes more than a week after Trump visited an aid station in the community, where he also insisted that residents “don’t need” flashlights “anymore.”
“There’s no electricity, and water has arrived at two or three neighborhoods, but very few,” Roberto Garcia, an assistant to Mayor Ángel Pérez Otero, told BuzzFeed’s Nidhi Prakash in a story published on Wednesday. (Prakash is a former reporter for Fusion.)
“Guaynabo is a city with a lot of bankers and influential people,” Garcia continued. “But there are a lot of less well-off people especially outside the center who are in serious need.”
During his visit to Guaynabo, Trump participated in a brief walking tour of one of the municipality’s more upscale neighborhoods, during which the president surveyed several relatively undamaged areas and exchanged niceties with local residents. However, despite Trump’s cheery forecast for recovery in the area—and Puerto Rico as a whole—residents of the San Juan suburb have described a decidedly different situation on the ground.
“We’re looking for help. Everyone is without water and electricity. The house was flooded and the food is all ruined,” Luz E. Cruz told BuzzFeed. “The very little that I have heard, because I don’t have a radio, is that we’re all waiting for the help to arrive…Because some of the roads are still not clear, help is slow to arrive. So you have to go find it yourself. But you don’t even know where to go unless a neighbor happens to know and we talk amongst ourselves.”
Another resident told the site that Guaynabo’s hardships pale in comparison to other areas of the island, which Trump conspicuously avoided on his visit to survey the damage.
“He came [to Puerto Rico], but he came here, where practically nothing happened,” 74-year-old Doris Morales said. “They said he came but they brought him here, where there was practically no damage. But if you go to the center of the island there’s so much destruction, that’s what is painful. They don’t have food or water. He brought water to a five-star city.”
That didn’t stop Otero, the mayor, from praising Trump during the his visit.
“Your people are doing the right stuff for us,” he told the president. “And that’s my experience over here in Guaynabo in the helping of thousands and thousands of people. So thank you, thank you, Mr. President.”
Despite the expectation that Guaynabo might be further along in its recovery efforts given the attention paid by the president and the relatively moderate damage caused by the storm, the community, like much of the island protectorate, still lags far behind anything resembling livable conditions. According to the official web portal tracking the island’s recovery efforts, just 10% of Puerto Rico has electrical power, while slightly fewer than 65% has clean water.