President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico "one of the most corrupt places on earth," even as the strengthening Hurricane Dorian targeted the Caribbean island two years after Hurricane Maria devastated it.
"Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt," Trump contended on Twitter. "Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!"
"And by the way, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!" concluded Trump, who visited Puerto Rico after Maria killed nearly 3,000 people. He tossed paper towels to residents to assist in the recovery, a casual response that sparked criticism.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump said, "We are tracking closely tropical storm Dorian as it heads, as usual, to Puerto Rico. FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job."
He told the island's 3 million residents that when government relief workers help them, "let them know it, and give them a big Thank You - Not like last time. That includes from the incompetent Mayor of San Juan!"
Trump often feuded with Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz during the lengthy recovery from Maria. As Dorian edged closer, she told Trump to "Get out of the way," but that the island was "not going to be concerned by his behavior, his lack of understanding.”
The island is under a hurricane watch. The U.S. government's hurricane center said Dorian strengthened slightly from a tropical storm into a hurricane at mid-day Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers an hour as it moved toward the northwest at 20 kilometers an hour, passing over western and central Puerto Rico. Forecasters said they expected Dorian to move near or over the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez has already declared a state of emergency, warning of possible landslides, flash floods, and power outages.
Vazquez also expressed appreciation to Trump for approving a federal emergency declaration. "This will allow federal aid to arrive more quickly after the passage of Dorian through our area," she wrote on Twitter.
Thousands of homes still lack roofs, and kilometers of roads are still a wreck from Hurricane Maria.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Dorian was expected to strengthen the next few days over the open, warm waters of the Atlantic.
Forecasters warn the heavy rainfall could trigger life-threatening flash floods in parts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands over the next couple of days.
Forecasters expect Puerto Rico will get 10 to 15 centimeters of rain, and up to 25 centimeters in isolated areas. More than 7 centimeters of rain could fall on the Dominican Republic as the storm passes by late Wednesday.
Dorian is expected to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands late Thursday and the Bahamas on Friday.
Forecasters believe Dorian could threaten the U.S. mainland in Florida by the weekend.
The storm lashed the Windward Islands Tuesday, dumping as much as 20 centimeters of rain on St. Lucia, Martinique and St. Vincent.