Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello is pleading with the U.S. to send help to his island as it struggles to recover from massive damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria.
Harsh winds and substantial flooding has left the island in ruin, devastating communication lines, destroying homes and buildings, and damaging a dam that could put residents in even more danger, according to CNN.
Rossello says that aid from the U.S. has been slow and that more help is needed before conditions turn into a humanitarian crisis. The governor is calling on Congress to approve an aid package for the U.S. commonwealth.
"We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now," he said. "Otherwise, there will be ... a massive exodus to the [continental] United States."
Political leaders in Puerto Rico say that the U.S. government is largely ignoring the island's 3.5 million residents, who are considered American citizens.
Congress has already approved a $15 billion dollar aid package to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, according to Politico, and may be planning to be sending even more aid in the near future. Puerto Rico does not have any congressional representation, but citizens can vote in midterm and presidential elections.
“The important part is to make sure it’s not forgotten," said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. "We have a fundamental obligation to a U.S. territory and American citizens to respond to a hurricane there the way we would anywhere in the country."
In a series of tweets Sept. 25, President Donald Trump put part of the blame of the devastation on the island's infrastructure, which he called "broken."
"Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble," the president tweeted. “It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well."
During a press conference the following day, Trump said that the Puerto Rican people have not been forgotten: "I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them. The island is devastated ... we're helping them. I mean, I think we're really getting really good marks for the work we're doing. We are literally landing water, food, supplies on an hourly basis."
Trump said he will be visiting the island on Oct. 3 to inspect the hurricane's damage.