Three Weeks after Cyclone Gita, state of disaster declared
In the wake of Cyclone Gita, president Donald J. Trump has officially declared a state of disaster in American Samoa, where some 500 residents are still living in emergency shelters. The total cost of damages wrought on the territory remains to be calculated, but governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga estimates the full details of the declaration’s policy plan to be published soon.
Although Trump was quick to respond to Cyclone Gita when it first hit American Samoa on February 9, the follow-up slackened afterwards, and three weeks later, with many still without a home to return to and infrastructure sorely damaged, the poor response time no longer reflects so well on the presidency. Twitter is rife with criticism for the administration’s lag. Comments like “shades of Bush after Katrina,” and “maybe if we renamed it American Puerto Rico he’d help more there,” pepper internet forums, and some ring true.
Though the newly-declared state of disaster allows grants for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-cost loans to be distributed to victims of the cyclone, one has to ask why the hold up between the declaration of a state of emergency and a state of disaster — Army Reserves have been in American Samoa since at least February 23, working on restoring destroyed buildings and infrastructure, and a couple of weeks now without quick-action financial programs have left many scrambling to restore their living situations. Not all can be equally successful here, as the ongoing need for emergency shelters demonstrates.
In an earlier article on the matter of Cyclone Gita, the President’s swift response approving a state of emergency was commented on. At the time a disaster declaration was thought to be a swiftly-implemented next step. The article went on to ask whether the administration would be able to maintain such quick response time in the future. If the results a month later serve as any indication, there may still be some cause for doubt.