Wed, 26 Sep 2018
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Virginia Beach

As Hurricane Florence churned towards the US East Coast on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump assured Americans the government stood ready - and slipped in some bragging about his handling of monster storms in the past.

In his first tweet on the topic early, Trump urged residents in Florence's path to "be safe", assuring them federal emergency workers were "ready for the big one that's coming" - so far so normal for a US president addressing the population as a disaster looms.

Less conventionally, he also took the chance to talk up his past performance in the field - and take a swipe at those who question it.

"We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida," the president tweeted, complaining his administration had done "an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico" - which he called "an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan".

Trump's shot at Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz came after she derided his claim that the response to last year's devastating Hurricane Maria had been an "incredible unsung success."

"Shame on you," the mayor fired back Tuesday in response to Trump's boasts, calling the operation a "despicable act of neglect".

Hurricane Maria is now considered to have killed 2 975 people in Puerto Rico, according to a recently revised government toll. The longstanding official toll had been just 64.

As the United States braced for the impact of a potentially catastrophic new storm, the president's comments - and tone of voice - sparked outrage in opposition ranks.

"The gleeful excitement about the power of the hurricane is gross," tweeted Jen Psaki, a former advisor to Barack Obama.

"Lives and livelihoods are at risk. Stop tweeting," she urged. "Bunker down in the situation room, make sure resources are deployed and present the calm and sober voice Americans need during crises."

Currently a Category 4 hurricane, Florence is forecast to slam into the East Coast later this week, with up to 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders.

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