Trump rips into 'nasty' Puerto Rico leader, blames locals for slow hurricane response

US President Donald Trump has lashed out at the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who has been critical of the federal response to the devastation on the island, saying she was being "nasty" to him.

In a series of early-morning tweets on Saturday, Mr Trump also appeared to blame some of Puerto Rico's residents for the slow pace of relief from the battering caused by Hurricane Maria, saying "they want everything to be done for them".

"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 Mr Trump," the Republican president wrote from his private golf club in New Jersey, where he is spending the weekend.

"Such poor leadership 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."

Mr Trump on Twitter also again defended the federal response, saying that the military and first responders were doing an "amazing job" and blasted the news media, whom he said were disparaging relief workers.

Mr Trump's outburst came after a day after San Juan's Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz delivered a sharp retort to comments from a top Trump administration official, who said the federal relief effort was a "a good-news story."

"Damn it, this is not a good-news story," Ms Cruz told CNN. "This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story."

Ms Cruz was referring to a remark by acting US Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, head of the parent department for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who said on Thursday she was satisfied with the disaster response so far.

The President offered a similar assessment speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday.

"It's a tough situation," Mr Trump said. "The loss of life, it's always tragic but it's been incredible, the results we've had with respect to loss of life. People can't believe how successful that's been, relatively speaking."

Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has killed at least 16 people on the island.

Ms Cruz on Friday also bristled at suggestions that the relief effort had been well-coordinated.

Celebrities react

  • "You're going straight to hell. She has been working 24/7. You have been GOLFING." - Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent.
  • "I call this my Noriega look." - caption to a picture tweeted by Ron Perlman (Manuel Noriega was a former dictator of Panama who was overthrown by the US).
  • "I [think] it's clear where the 'poor leadership' lies. Puerto Rico is part of the United States. This is our responsibility." - Lady Gaga.
  • "No matter who you are, please remember the actions of this President today when it comes time to vote in 2020. He needs to go. #PuertoRico." - Amber Tamblyn
  • "The irony of Trump golfing and tweeting - saying the mayor of San Juan wants 'everything to be done for them' - it's [as] thick as his skull." - George Takei.