(Bloomberg) – President Donald Trump defended his administration's handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, saying the federal government is fully engaged in responding to storm damage of "historic and catastrophic severity."

"We're literally starting from scratch," Trump said Friday in a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers. He said the hurricane had damaged roads and sewage systems and knocked out the electric power grid. "Nobody has ever seen anything like it."

Impassable roads

A week after Maria slammed into the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth, Puerto Ricans continued to endure sweaty, dark nights with a resolution to the near-total power outage nowhere in sight. Mobile-phone coverage improved gradually, but many residents still had no way of reaching loved ones outside their communities, and rural areas still had impassable roads.

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