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Puerto Rico Nearing 'Humanitarian Crisis' After Hurricane Maria, Says Governor

Nearly all of Puerto Rico lost power after the hurricane, and residents continue to struggle in search of proper food and water.

(TNS) — As Puerto Rico begins to recover from the devastation left by Hurricane Maria, the island's governor is asking his fellow Americans for help.

"Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, can turn into a humanitarian crisis," Gov. Ricardo A. Rossello said on Monday.

"To avoid that, recognize that we Puerto Ricans are American citizens; when we speak of a catastrophe, everyone must be treated equally."

On Friday night, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that Massachusetts sent members of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 alongside members of the New York Task Force 1 to assist in rescue missions on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also struck twice by back-to-back hurricanes over the past month.

Nearly all of Puerto Rico lost power after the hurricane, and residents continue to struggle in search of proper food and water. Approximately 80 percent of agriculture value was destroyed in the storm, reports the New York Times, striking an estimated $780 million blow in crop yields.

Some have criticized the response by the federal government and President Donald Trump as less urgent compared to aid responses in Texas and Florida, following hurricanes there in the last month.

The White House has challenged those criticisms. On Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to the federal response to Puerto Rico as "an unprecedented push through of billions of dollars in federal assistance." She said responders are currently focused on lifesaving efforts and are still in a "fact-finding process" to determine what funds are needed.

On Monday, President Donald Trump sent tweets referring to Puerto Rico's "massive debt ... owed to Wall Street and the banks," adding that "food, water and medical are top priorities."

Lawmakers are trying to draft a federal aid bill for Puerto Rico, which, despite housing American citizens, currently lacks any voting representation in the United States.

The Puerto Rican government has set up a donation page called "United for Puerto Rico," listing everyday items and construction materials most needed on the island.

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