Trump says response to Puerto Rico storm 'underappreciated'


President Donald Trump said Wednesday the government is ready for massive Hurricane Florence and insisted that 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 Southeast U.S. coast, 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!" Trump tweeted.

His next dispatch warned people about Florence, predicted to dump massive amounts of rain on the already-soggy Southeast 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 battled with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. But after visiting the island last September, 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 U.S. 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."

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, seized on Trump's use of the word "successful" and said in a statement issued later Tuesday: "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."

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 Trump to respond to a petition to help Puerto Rico complete work on emergency housing restoration programs and debris removal.

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 baskets.

While defending the handling of the previous storm, he urged caution in regards to the new one bearing down on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

"The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared. We are ready. We are ready as anybody has ever been."

The president, flanked by maps of the storm and the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Florence was unlikely to change course before it is expected to make landfall with 130 mph winds and potentially ruinous rains in the coming days.

"They haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever," Trump said of the states in the storm's path. "It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amount of water."

Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and wring itself out for days, unloading 1 to 2½ feet (0.3 to 0.8 meters) of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms. North and South Carolina and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

___

Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

___

Follow Kellman and Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@APLaurie Kellman and http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

___

For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation World

Jury awards boy $30 million in botched circumcision; award could increase
Jury awards boy $30 million in botched circumcision; award could increase

A jury in Clayton County, Georgia has awarded a boy $30 million for a botched circumcision, and the award could rise even higher as deliberations continue. >> Read more trending news  The verdict came down in the first phase of deliberations Friday, and the jury is expected to deliberate over whether to grant punitive damages, according...
Man suspected of threatening President Trump arrested after 3-month manhunt
Man suspected of threatening President Trump arrested after 3-month manhunt

A fugitive suspected of threatening President Trump has been arrested by police after a three-month manhunt. Shawn Christy, 26, was taken into custody Friday afternoon, the U.S. Marshals Service told WPXI. The federal agency said Christy was arrested in Mifflin Township, near Columbus, by marshals and task force members from Ohio and Pennsylvania...
Springfield CultureFest: Festival’s foods offer taste of the world
Springfield CultureFest: Festival’s foods offer taste of the world

CultureFest offers a slice of more than 20 cultures in one location. To really experience it, just take a bite. Hot dogs, Hungarian cabbage rolls and mango lassi are just a sample of the diverse foods available at the 22nd annual CultureFest, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at City Hall Plaza. “Food is very much a part of CultureFest,&rdquo...
Man gets 160-year sentence for impregnating 10-year-old after repeated molestation
Man gets 160-year sentence for impregnating 10-year-old after repeated molestation

An Indiana man received a 160-year prison sentence after his conviction in August on 10 counts of child molestation that led to the pregnancy of a 10-year-old girl. >> Read more trending news  At his trial last month, Georgia native Nicholas Deon Thrash, 34, was found guilty of repeatedly molesting the girl beginning when she was 8 when...
Girls arrested after stabbing school bus driver with steak knife
Girls arrested after stabbing school bus driver with steak knife

Two high school students in Atlanta were arrested this week over their alleged roles in the stabbing of a school bus driver, warrants and DeKalb County School District officials confirmed.  Keniya Lloyd and Donesia Glass, both of Decatur, “are not currently attending classes” after the Sept. 14 attack, DeKalb County schools spokesman...
More Stories