President Donald Trump has been criticised for hailing the US response to the deadly Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year as “tremendous”.
The mayor of its capital tweeted: “If he thinks the death of 3 000 people is a success God help us all.”
Puerto Rico only finished restoring full power last month, 11 months after the hurricane hit.
A recent report says 8 percent left the island after the hurricane and many died due to poor health care and other services.
The island’s Governor Ricardo Rossello issued a statement on Tuesday night, describing Maria as “the worst natural disaster in our modern history. Our basic infrastructure was devastated, thousands of our people lost their lives and many others still struggle”.
Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the US, is home to some 3.3 million people.
Asked at the White House what lessons could be learned from Hurricane Maria as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, Trump said Maria was the “hardest one we had by far because of the island nature”, adding: “I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.
“The job that Fema [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.”
Mr Trump had said recently: “We have put billions and billions of dollars into Puerto Rico and it was a very tough one. I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.”
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a statement: “No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states.”
The mayor of the Puerto Rican capital San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, a vocal critic of Mr Trump who earlier described his response to Maria as a “stain on his presidency”, said his latest comment “added “insult to injury”.
Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “Nearly 3,000 people died. That is not a ‘success’. That is a tragedy and a disgrace.”
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said: “This is an offensive, hurtful and blatantly false comment from the president.”
New York Democratic primary winner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said: “Some of my [Puerto Rico] family just got power a few weeks ago. People are developing respiratory issues partly due to airborne fungal spores from lack of proper cleanup. The admin’s response to Puerto Rico has been a disaster.”
Some Trump supporters on social media accepted there had been failures but said the president had done all he could and that it was Puerto Rican officials who were to blame.