The US President played down the severity of Hurricane Maria during a speech at a meeting today with military and local leaders in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in his first visit to the island after the storm.
He said: “Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died and you look at what happened here with a story that was just totally overpowering.”
He then asked Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello: “What is your death count?”
Mr. Rossello replied: “Sixteen, certified.”
President Trump then said: “Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands.”
He added: “You can be very proud of all of your people and all our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.
“Everyone around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s been taking place in Puerto Rico.”
Trump also appeared concerned but irritated by the financial cost of the disaster in Puerto Rico.
He said: “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack,” before adding: “We spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that’s fine, we saved a lot of lives.”
The US President has faced accusations of a lacklustre response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
During his visit he will have to navigate resentment from Puerto Ricans frustrated they are still struggling with basic necessities a fortnight after they were hit by the worst hurricane in 90-years.
The economy of the US territory, home to 3.4million people, was already in recession, with its government filing for bankruptcy in May.
The storm wiped out the island’s power grid, and less than half of residents have running water.
Two weeks on, it is still difficult for residents to get mobile phone signal or find fuel for their generators or cars as about 88 per cent of the mobile phone sites are still out of service.
Puerto Ricans have been relying on each to other share resources and information about which gas stations have fuel or where they could be lucky enough to find a phone carrier with a working mobile site.
Islanders were already struggling but tensions were exacerbated when President Trump berated critics of his government’s response.
He lashed out at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz for “poor leadership” on the weekend after she criticised the federal response.
The real-estate mogul said some people on the island “want everything to be done for them”.
The island’s recovery from the devastation is likely to cost more than $30billion (£22.7bn).
Congressional sources have said President Trump is preparing to ask Congress for $13bn (£9.8bn) in aid for areas recently hit by natural disasters such as Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas.