President Donald Trump called Puerto Rico “one of the most corrupt places on earth” in a swipe at the U.S. territory’s leaders just as Hurricane Dorian menaced the island, reawakening memories of recent devastating storms.
Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from back-to-back hurricanes in 2017, which killed about 3,000 people just months after it filed for bankruptcy.
Still, the eye of the hurricane appeared to have passed Puerto Rico’s eastern coast by mid-afternoon after plowing over the U.S. Virgin islands and Culebra, an island belonging to Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Though it is gathering strength, Dorian, a Category 1 Hurricane, was blowing winds considerably less powerful than when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017.
Dorian is expected to be a major hurricane with the potential to do severe damage by the time it reaches Florida by late Sunday or early Monday, NHC forecasts show.
After approving an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico late on Tuesday, Trump took a swipe at the U.S. territory on Twitter on Wednesday morning.
“Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!” Trump wrote.
Trump has a history of disputes with Puerto Rico’s leaders. He was heavily criticized for a tepid response to the 2017 hurricanes that battered Puerto Rico.
Ernesto Morales of Puerto Rico’s National Meteorological Service told a news conference in San Juan that Dorian would cause heavy rain and possible flooding on the mainland.
“As the day goes on the rain will get stronger,” Morales said, adding that between four and six inches of rain would fall on the island, and more in some areas. Soils were already saturated in some parts, meaning flooding was likely, he said.
By mid-afternoon, the NHC said Dorian was blowing maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) some 45 miles northwest of St. Thomas island.