Vice President to survey damage in U.S. territories

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Vice President Mike Pence received some unsolicited advice Thursday as he prepared to survey Hurricane Maria’s fury in Puerto Rico: Go to the heart of the devastation.

Arriving at Orlando International Airport, Pence greeted a group of Puerto Ricans who had just landed and were getting help from relief agencies and local services at the airport. Walking table to table, the vice president met Everlinda Burgos, who had arrived earlier in the day from her home in Naranjito.

“Don’t go to San Juan. Go inside the country, like where I live,” Burgos told Pence, who listened intently along with his wife, Karen Pence. Burgos said President Donald Trump had visited “another part — not in the center” during his trip Tuesday to the hurricane-ravaged island. She said Pence needed to “go to the center because that’s where the disaster is.”

Promising to help, Pence said the administration would “work every part of it and help Puerto Rico recover.” He said that after the recovery, Burgos would be able to return home. “There’s no place like home,” Pence said, adding, “Can I give you a hug?” They hugged and then the vice president walked to another table.

Pence’s meetings with members of central Florida’s large Puerto Rican community came ahead of his trip today to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is dealing with the aftermath of the massive hurricane.

Trump toured a small slice of Maria’s devastation during his visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday and praised the relief efforts of his administration without mentioning the criticism that the federal response has drawn.

Pence was joined by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio at the airport disaster center, one of three across the state that was opened by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and is receiving federal support.

Nelson and Rubio later joined the vice president at a meeting with volunteers and congregants at a church in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Kissimmee. Pence praised the church’s efforts to fill 15 trucks with supplies and send 150 generators to the island.

“Puerto Rico will come back, as the president says, better and stronger than ever before,” Pence said, adding with a touch of Spanish, “because we are all unidos por Puerto Rico.”