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WASHINGTON (AP/KDKA) – President Donald Trump is pledging to help Puerto Rico continue to recover from Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

He is defending his administration’s handling of the disaster that knocked out power to the U.S. island’s 3.4 million people.

In an airport hangar in Puerto Rico, Trump also sought praise from local officials.

He repeated that they have to help with the recovery and scolded them for a longstanding budget crisis.

Trump said, “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.” President Trump quickly added that he was glad lives had been saved, saying the death toll caused by Maria and Irma was far lower than those who were killed as a result of hurricane Katrina.

He was referring to Puerto Rico’s $74 billion public debt load and a decade-old economic recession.

Trump’s visit comes after what critics have said was a slow response.

The president is visiting neighborhoods and has told one resident that the governor and the mayor are “doing a good job.”

Recently, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized the pace of the federal government’s response and drew Trump’s scorn.

The president’s visit included meetings with her and other local officials. As he left the airport, the president’s motorcade snaked through streets lined with downed tree limbs, mangled signs and drooping power lines. A beach was covered in debris.

Scattered groups of people gathered to watch the motorcade pass. One held a sign reading, “Climate change is real.” Another’s said: “You are a bad hombre.”

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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