After touching down in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, President Donald Trump made some impromptu remarks about the emergency response for the area, and compared Hurricane Maria's death toll to that of Katrina in 2005. 

Trump pointed out that Puerto Rico has suffered a relatively low death toll from Hurricane Maria compared with "a real catastrophe like Katrina," which killed more than a thousand people in 2005.

Trump spoke as he toured the island Tuesday. He pledged an all-out effort to help Puerto Rico.

The president said that while "every death is a horror," he drew a distinction between "a real catastrophe like Katrina" and "what happened here" in Puerto Rico, where at least 16 people died.

Trump was visiting the island for the first time after Hurricane Maria ravaged the area nearly two weeks prior. 

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Air Force One brought the president, first lady Melania Trump and aides to Puerto Rico in late morning. They were expected to spend more than five hours on the ground, meeting first responders, local officials and some of the 3.4 million people whose lives have been upended by a hurricane that, in the president's words, left the island U.S. territory "flattened."

The plane descended over a landscape marked by mangled palm trees, metal debris strewn near homes and patches of stripped trees, yet with less devastation evident than farther from San Juan.

As he headed out to visit the island earlier, Trump praised the federal response, telling reporters at the White House that "it's now acknowledged what a great job we've done." He added that at "a local level, they have to give us more help."

Added Trump: "In Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. And I'll tell you what, I think we've done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it's actually a much tougher situation."

The trip will be Trump's fourth areas battered by storms during an unusually violent hurricane season that has also seen parts of Texas, Florida, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands inundated by floodwaters and hit by high winds.

Nearly two weeks after the Puerto Rico storm, 95 percent of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals. And much of the countryside is still struggling to access such basic necessities as food, fresh water and cash.

Trump's visit follows a weekend in which he aggressively pushed back against critics, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Trump responded angrily on Twitter, deriding the "poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help."

"They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort," he added, scoffing at "politically motivated ingrates" who had criticized the federal work, and insisting that "tremendous progress" was being made.

Cruz had accused the administration of "killing us with the inefficiency" and begged the president to "make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives."

Trump said Tuesday that Cruz has "come back a long way" in her criticism, noting the recent moderation in her remarks. He added: "The first responders, the military, FEMA, they have done an incredible job in Puerto Rico. And whether it's her or anybody else, they're all starting to say it."

Cruz told the White House she would attend the president's first event: a briefing on hurricane relief efforts at the airport hangar, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump and his wife were to attend briefings and meet with Gov. Ricardo Rossello, as well as the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. They were also meeting Navy and Marine Corps personnel on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge.

Even before the storm hit on Sept. 20, Puerto Rico was in dire condition thanks to a decade-long economic recession that had left its infrastructure, including the island's power lines, in a sorry state. Maria was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century and unleashed floods and mudslides that knocked out the island's entire electrical grid and telecommunications, along with many roads.

Trump and other administration officials have worked in recent days to reassure Americans that recovery efforts are going well and combat a perception that the president failed to fully grasp the magnitude of the storm's destruction in its immediate aftermath.

While early response efforts were hampered by logistical challenges, officials say that conditions, especially in the capital, have improved.

Information from Jill Colvin of The Associated Press was used in this report.