Puerto Rico mayor pleads for help after Hurricane Maria: "People are dying"

Last Updated Sep 26, 2017 4:24 PM EDT

The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital pleaded on Tuesday for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut red tape and start distributing food and water on the U.S. territory left devastated by Hurricane Maria.

"We need to get our s--- together because people are dying," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said on CBSN. "People are really dying."

Cruz told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud that two people who were on life support in a hospital died on Monday because the hospital ran out of diesel fuel that was powering its generators.

"It's life or death," Cruz said. "Every moment we spend planning in a meeting or every moment we spend just not getting the help we're supposed to get, people are starting to die. This is not painting a picture. This is just the reality that we live in, the crude aftermath of a storm, a hurricane, that has left us technically paralyzed."

The mayor said that she has helped people get into ambulances who were gasping for air and others who have gone without dialysis for days.

"You have to remember this isn't six days since Maria," Cruz said. "We have had 13 or 14 days from Irma and Maria, so there are people that have had no food and no water in 14 days."

She expressed gratitude for the work being done by FEMA and for aid provided by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born on the island, and Puerto Ricans from Chicago.

While food and water were available to be distributed, the mayor said it wasn't being handed out because FEMA was conducting assessments. Cruz also said she has to officially request aid in a memo to the agency, which she said she doesn't have time to write.

"There's a lot of good faith, but the good faith has to turn into action or people are going to continue to die," Cruz said. "Please, whomever's listening, forget the memos, forget the meetings."

President Trump noted Cruz's earlier praise for the agency in a tweet Tuesday morning.

"Thank you to Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, for your kind words on FEMA etc.We are working hard. Much food and water there/on way," the president said.

Later, at the White House, Mr. Trump told reporters he would visit Puerto Rico next Tuesday.

Cruz responded to the president's tweet on CBSN.

"Thank you to FEMA," Cruz said. "All the people that are here are working very hard, but, you know, you've got to work hard, and you've got to put the aid in the hands of the people, so I thank the president for that."