US president targets San Juan's Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz in a series of tweets, accusing her and the island's officials of failing to effectively help those in need.
US President Donald Trump on Saturday assailed mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city and other leaders of the island for a slow pace of relief from the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Maria.
Trump said his government, which has come under fire for its response, was doing an “amazing job”.
Trump took to Twitter early on Saturday to fire back at Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan.
On Friday, Cruz had criticised Trump's Republican administration and begged for more help, pleas that received widespread television coverage in the mainland US.
TRT World’s Staci Bivens reports.
Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, wiped out the power and communications systems, making it difficult to get food, water and fuel around the island.
The hurricane has killed at least 16 people, according to the official death toll.
...Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
...want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
Trump, who was spending the weekend at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, said Cruz was attacking him for partisan reasons.
"Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help," said Trump.
"They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."
Trump said he will visiting Puerto Rico on Tuesday along with the First Lady Melania Trump.
I will be going to Puerto Rico on Tuesday with Melania. Will hopefully be able to stop at the U.S. Virgin Islands (people working hard).— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
Cruz, who has been living in a shelter after her home was destroyed in the hurricane, told MSNBC that the issue was not personal and said municipal employees were working as hard as they could.
"Actually, I was asking for help - I wasn't saying anything nasty about the president," Cruz said.
"I am not going to be distracted by small comments, by politics, by petty issues.
Trump's comments drew swift condemnation on the mainland.
"The tweets this morning are despicable, are deplorable, are not statesman-like at all," said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who was born in Puerto Rico.
"He needs to be in charge, he needs to take control, he needs to demonstrate some level of empathy over what is happening," Mark-Viverito said on CNN.
Trump responded to the criticism in another tweet, saying: “Fake News CNN and NBC are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to “get Trump.” Not fair to FR or effort!”
Fake News CNN and NBC are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to "get Trump." Not fair to FR or effort!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
Trump was scheduled to speak by telephone to the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, and other officials from the region on Saturday, and US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency's headquarters in Washington for a briefing.
At a news conference, Rossello declined to comment on Trump's tweets, which he said he had not seen.
"Let me stress this: I am committed to collaborating with everybody," he said.
"This is a point where we can’t look at small differences and establish differences based on politics."
The Trump administration has given Puerto Rico's government "whatever we ask for" in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, Rossello said.
But he warned that the US Congress would need to help rebuild the island, which is home to 3.4 million Americans.
"If Congress doesn’t take action with a significant package, then we are looking at a possible humanitarian crisis," he said.
“What are the effects of falling into that predicament? Massive exodus without a doubt."
The insurance industry has begun to tally the mounting costs of Maria, with one modeling company estimating that claims could total as much as $85 billion with Puerto Rico incurring most of the damage.