President Trump on Tuesday commended Puerto Rico's leaders and first responders for the relatively low death toll that resulted from Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on the island last month as a Category 4 storm and wiped out much of its infrastructure and telecommunications.
"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 really a storm that was just totally overpowering. Nobody's ever seen anything like this," Trump told a group of federal and local officials gathered in Puerto Rico on Tuesday to brief him about the hurricane recovery efforts.
"So what's your death count? Sixteen people, certified?" Trump asked nearby officials. "Sixteen versus literally thousands of people, you can be very proud."
Trump traveled to Puerto Rico this week amid criticism of his administration's response to the storm. The president's public spat with the mayor of San Juan over the weekend had worsened the perception of his Puerto Rico response and raised the stakes of his visit to her city.
The White House has pledged to marshal every available resource in order to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.