Storm response in Puerto Rico 'incredibly successful,' Trump says

Zach Gibson  AFP  Getty Images People cross the street as water floods outside buildings in Old Town Alexandria Va. Sept. 11 2018

Asked on Tuesday what lessons the administration learned in 2017 responding to storms in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, Trump boasted that he deserved top marks.

President Trump on Wednesday leveled a fresh attack on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as he continued to defend his administration's response to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico past year and asserted readiness for the one now barreling toward the Carolinas.

In an interview with "Good Morning America", FEMA administrator Brock Long addressed Trump's declaration of success, saying, "The problem is that FEMA was the only responder going in and we were the first responder and that's not the way that disaster response and recovery works".

Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people and is one of the deadliest hurricanes on record. Last month, almost one year after Maria struck Puerto Rico, the island's government raised the official death toll to 2,975 people - a dramatic increase on the previous official figure of 64.

The National Hurricane Center expects Isaac to weaken to a tropical storm by Friday and Saturday as it moves near or south of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The administration's efforts in Puerto Rico received widespread criticism, and he battled with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

"I think Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success", he said.

"We'll handle it, we're ready, we're able". She was the local official most vocal about the need for a more robust federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where researchers have estimated there were almost 3,000 excess deaths after the storm.

On Wednesday, Trump said his administration did a "great job" in Puerto Rico and criticized Cruz as "totally incompetent" without elaborating. The storm is also estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage.

He called Maria "the worst natural disaster in our modern history" and said many people are still struggling.

"It takes everybody from neighbor helping neighbor to the federal government", he added. "We are sparing no expense".

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 209 km/h winds and potentially ruinous rains in the coming days. "It's tremendously big and tremendously wet".

Connolly's home state of Virginia is also in the storm's path. Trump has declared states of emergency for all three states. North and SC and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

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