During his visit to hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump praised the "nice weather" and distributed paper towels to the victims of the storm.
He launched several rolls of paper towels into a crowd of residents who were affected by Hurricane Maria. His moves, however, were described as disrespectful after pictures and video from the incident made the rounds on social media.
Many social media users accused Trump of "frivolity" and "mocking the hurricane victims." During his stop, Trump congratulated Puerto Ricans for avoiding a high death toll of "a real catastrophe like Katrina."
As many as 1,800 people died in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina breached levees protecting New Orleans, much of which is below sea level and has yet to recuperate. The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has increased to 34 from 16, the U.S. territory's governor said Tuesday.
Governor Ricardo Rossello also said he believes the hurricane that struck on Sept. 20 with winds over 240 kilometers per hour caused $90 billion in damage across the Caribbean island. The governor said the death toll in Puerto Rico included 19 people who died as a direct result of the storm and 15 whose deaths were caused indirectly by the storm.
Nearly two weeks after the storm, 95 percent of people remain without power, including some hospitals. Some people have expressed concerns about the effect that extended outages will have on the ill and vulnerable in the tropical heat.
According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are now more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground on the island, and 45 percent of customers now have access to drinking water. Rossello has said he hopes 25 percent of electricity customers will have power by the end of October.
After his visit to Puerto Rico, Trump visited Las Vegas yesterday to try to soothe the city shaken by the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history in a trip that will test his ability to console a grieving nation.
His trip to Las Vegas is the first time he has had to deal directly with the tragic aftermath of deadly gun violence that has routinely claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.
Stephen Paddock, 64, a retiree with no criminal record, was identified as the gunman in Sunday night's mass shooting, spraying bullets from the window of his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. Authorities said 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured from a crowd of thousands gathered to watch an outdoor country music concert. Paddock's motive remains a mystery.
Trump has had mixed success in the traditional role of "consoler-in-chief." He inflamed racial tensions in the aftermath of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and he has struggled to strike the right tone in responding to hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.
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