Trump hails ‘underappreciated great job’ after Puerto Rico hurricane

Donald Trump has said the US government is ready for Hurricane Florence and insisted his administration’s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico last year was an “underappreciated great job”.

In a series of morning tweets as Florence bore down on the US coast, Mr Trump bristled over criticism of the response to Hurricane Maria, in which 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico.

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!” he tweeted.

His next dispatch warned people about Florence, which is predicted to dump massive amounts of rain on the south east of the US later this week.

“Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated. It will be arriving soon. FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement are supplied and ready. Be safe!”

The administration’s efforts in Puerto Rico received widespread criticism and he argued with Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

After visiting the island last September, Mr Trump said that Puerto Ricans were fortunate that the storm did not yield a catastrophe akin to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast.

All told, about 1,800 people died in that 2005 storm. Puerto Rico’s governor last month raised the US territory’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975. The storm is also estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage.

A day earlier, the President praised the response to the series of storms. “I think Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”

President Donald Trump talks about the danger posed by Hurricane Florence (Susan Walsh/AP)

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, seized on Mr Trump’s use of the word “successful” and said in a statement: “No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states.”

Mr Rossello called Hurricane Maria “the worst natural disaster in our modern history” and said work still remained before they could move on to other stages of recovery.

He also said he was still waiting for Mr Trump to respond to a petition to help Puerto Rico complete work on emergency housing restoration programmes and debris removal.

Mr Trump, having long struggled to express empathy at times of national crises, sparked outrage when during his visit to the island he feuded with the mayor of San Juan and passed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting basketballs.

- Press Association

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