President Donald Trump compared the death count following 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina to the crisis in Puerto Rico during his visit to the island on Tuesday, noting that officials should be “proud” that not as many citizens have been killed.
“Every death is horrible, 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,” said Trump, before asking officials at a meeting with local and federal leadership how many have died since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, leaving millions without homes and electricity.
Trump was seemingly pleased to hear the natural disaster has claimed only 16 lives “versus in the thousands” lost during Katrina, praising the leaders, “you can be proud.”
“You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together, ” he said.
In the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane — which made landfall in the U.S. three times — a reported 1,833 people died, according to the Washington Post.
The remarks drew criticism of the president, who has already received significant backlash for his response to the crisis.
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Also during the Tuesday meeting, Trump commented, “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives.”
Later in the day, Trump tossed paper towels to hurricane survivors at a church in Guaynabo, a moment caught on camera. Trump also distributed food products, like brown rice.