US President Donald Trump said the disaster relief effort in Puerto Rico is complicated since it is an island surrounded by "big water" and Twitter can't stop laughing. Trump's remarks on Friday came following criticism over the administration's response to Hurricane Maria that ploughed through Puerto Rico, a US territory that is home to 3.4 million American citizens.

Many critics argued that the government should have responded quicker and provided more effective disaster relief to Texas, Florida and other mainland states ravaged by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

During a speech in Washington on Friday, Trump defended his administration's response explaining that Puerto Rico is "surrounded by water."

"This is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water," Trump said, noting that local governments had been "totally and unfortunately unable to handle this catastrophic crisis on their own – just totally unable to."

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico last week, killing at least 16 people and knocking out 80% of the island's electricity. Since then, the situation has remained dire in Puerto Rico with residents facing shortages of food, water and fuel with many relying on gas-powered generators.

Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló said the US government's response "still is not where it needs to be, certainly it's not." San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the territory is facing a "humanitarian crisis" and urged the president to "take charge and save lives."

"We are dying here," Cruz said at a press conference. "I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday we are in trouble." Trump has complained that media coverage of the government's response to Puerto Rico has been unfair and praised the relief effort to the territory.

Meanwhile, Twitter immediately pounced on his "toddler-like" description of Puerto Rico and "ridiculous" defence against the slow relief response.

"Big water. Ocean water.' Is he serious? Did he think we were confused and thought it was bath water? Speak like an adult!" one Twitter user fumed. Another said he has the "vocabulary of a third grader."

"So disheartening that America went from the eloquence and intelligence of President Obama to this blithering idiot," a Twitter user wrote. One person suggested that the 2020 presidential election debates should include a game of "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?"

"I love that on the same day Elon Musk wants to fly to Mars, Donald Trump can't figure out how to get a boat to Puerto Rico," one person tweeted.

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President Trump described Puerto Rico as an "island surrounded by big water" and Twitter couldn't stop laughing. RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images