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President Trump on Monday announced that he had directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide “A Plus treatment” to the state of Alabama and its governor after tornadoes ripped across the state, killing at least 23 people.
“FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes,” Trump tweeted. “@GovernorKayIvey, one of the best in our Country, has been so informed. She is working closely with FEMA (and me!).”
According to the National Weather Service, a tornado with at least an F3 rating (carrying winds of at least 158 mph) and a track at least half a mile wide, caused catastrophic damage in Beauregard, Ala., on Sunday. Officials in Lee County warned that the death toll could rise.
“To the great people of Alabama and surrounding areas: Please be careful and safe,” the president tweeted late Sunday. “To the families and friends of the victims, and to the injured, God bless you all!”
Trump has come under fire for his response to past natural disasters, including last year’s wildfires in California and, most notably, Hurricane Maria, which left thousands of people dead in Puerto Rico.
The federal response to the storm — in contrast to the better-coordinated relief effort in Texas following Hurricane Harvey — received widespread criticism in the press and from Puerto Rican officials.
Trump denied responsibility for the slow response, blaming Puerto Rico’s inadequate electrical distribution system and the difficulty of bringing in relief supplies by ship.
Weeks after the hurricane hit, Trump said the administration’s response deserved a grade of 10 out of 10, even as most of the U.S. territory remained without power.
“I think we did a fantastic job,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in October 2017. “We have done a really great job.”
Yet Trump also reportedly tried to deny Puerto Rico federal relief money. According to the Washington Post, the president told then-White House chief of staff John Kelly and and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that “he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money.”
Trump has also disputed the death toll from Hurricane Maria, which was revised upward from less than two dozen in the immediate aftermath to several thousand, blaming Democrats, without evidence, for inflating the figure.
Last May, a Harvard study estimated the death toll from Maria to be 4,645. In August, the official death toll from Puerto Rico officials, calculated by researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, was put at 2,975. Either number would make Maria the deadliest natural disaster in the United States in over a century.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump tweeted in September. “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.”
At a briefing with FEMA officials on Hurricane Florence at the White House, Trump said the Puerto Rican response was “incredibly successful” and “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”
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