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  • U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, U.S., on their way to view storm damage in Puerto Rico.

    U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, U.S., on their way to view storm damage in Puerto Rico. | Photo: Reuters

Trump said Puerto Rican deaths after Hurricane Maria not as major as Katrina deaths in 2005.

U.S. President Donald Trump has landed in Puerto Rico nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island and after major criticism of his handling of the crisis, including insults against the mayor of San Juan.

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Ignoring the view that the United States has done little for Puerto Rico, Trump first thanked the manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Brock Long. He described Brock's work, organizing relief efforts in Texas and Florida and then traveling to Puerto Rico, as being “unbelievable.”

The president then showered praise on Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, commenting that despite being a member of the opposition party, Rosello didn't toy with politics, showing his appreciation for what his administration did as part of the relief efforts.

Also present at the briefing was Jennifer Gonzalez, who represents the island of Puerto Rico with no voting rights in the U.S. Congress. After introducing her to say a few words on behalf of the “incredible” people from the military to FEMA to first responders, Trump interrupted her to say, “I've never seen people working so hard in my life.”

In his introduction for White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Trump said, “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little outta whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.”

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Trump went on to thank navy personnel participating in relief efforts, calling the supplies delivered by sea, air and land “very big stuff.” He noted that despite a lack of docks, the navy did an “incredble” job of getting supplies to land by boats and ships.

The head of state noted that while all “deaths are a horror,” Puerto Ricans should be “proud” of their efforts in saving lives, comparing their current death toll of 16 to the more than 1,800 deaths after the breaking of the New Orleans' levees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has killed at least 16 people and wiped out the power and communications systems. It has also made it difficult to get food, water and fuel around the island.

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