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Trump hurls accusation at storm-hit Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – President Donald Trump on Saturday accused Puerto Ricans of wanting “everything to be done for them,” even as criticism grew that federal relief efforts amid devastating hurricane damage have fallen desperately short.

While much of the US territory of 3.4 million remained without power, fresh water, or communications links long after the catastrophic passage of Hurricane Maria, reports continued to filter in on Saturday of battered towns across the island that have yet to see any federal or local presence.

Enormous, hours-long queues grew at San Juan gas stations – some patrolled by private security guards – while desperate residents in the interior said reporters were the first outsiders they had seen.

“There’s been no help from FEMA nor from the federal government nor from anyone,” said Elisa Gonzalez, 49.

But Trump insisted in a series of Twitter messages Saturday that federal emergency response teams and the US military, which has sent dozens of ships and some 10,000 troops, were doing a “fantastic” job.

Criticized for devoting more attention to protests by professional football players than to the disaster in the Caribbean, the White House announced Saturday that the President would make a series of phone calls later in the day to officials in Puerto Rico ahead of a visit there Tuesday.

Trump, in his tweets, sought to lay blame for the island’s continuing woes on Democrats, the media, and local officials.

After San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz complained in impassioned remarks that ‘‘We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island,’’ Trump unleashed a tweet rant.

‘‘The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,’’ he wrote.

“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 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.’’

Trump’s latest remarks – issued from his luxury golf resort in New Jersey – could further inflame sentiment. His earlier comments questioning who would pay for reconstruction given the territory’s financial debt were viewed by some as premature and distasteful, coming as islanders faced existential threats. (AFP)