Trump, without citing evidence, rejects Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico

Zach Gibson  AFP  Getty Images People cross the street as water floods outside buildings in Old Town Alexandria Va. Sept. 11 2018

Zach Gibson AFP Getty Images People cross the street as water floods outside buildings in Old Town Alexandria Va. Sept. 11 2018

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump suggested, via Twitter, that Democrats had inflated the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The official figure was released last month after an independent study.

The Puerto Rican government recently raised the official death count from the awful storm and aftermath to almost 3,000, but Trump cast doubt on that figure, claiming the Democrats inflated the number to make him look "as bad as possible". Instead, Trump claimed that only as many as 18 deaths occurred.

Trump kept tweeting about the death toll on Thursday, as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolinas. "Let's just go in and fix it", Stewart said.

Suddenly, the official toll was revised to 2,975, reflecting the results of a study done by George Washington University. In response, representatives from the GWU Milken Institute School of Public Health said they stand by their science, and "are confident that the number - 2,975 - is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date". "A true leader would offer his condolences to the people of Puerto Rico". She then added, "It's sad to me that a natural disaster has to get political, I don't think President Trump is exclusively to blame for what happened, Puerto Rico had a number of its own problems before Maria even hit, they were filing for bankruptcy". "And I pray it is more successful". The survey was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government.

Trump has focused his ire on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who positioned herself as a critic of his administration in the immediate aftermath of the storms.

"You will never take away our self respect".

Trump reignited the controversy around the USA government's management of the disaster when he said Tuesday it was an "incredible, unsung success". "If he thinks the death of 3,000 people [is] a success God help us all".

"But the President continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of SC and the people of North Carolina", Cruz said.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello said in a statement this week that Maria was "the worst natural disaster in our modern history". "We see it that way".

What's the U.S. political reaction?

But Trump claimed Democrats were behind the larger number.

Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring from Congress, called the president's tweets "mind-boggling".

Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, said the president was "delusional".

Rick Scott: Florida's Republican governor tweeted that he disagreed with Trump.

He added in a tweet: "The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching". "So I have no reason to dispute those numbers".

"This is a devastating storm that hit an isolated island". "That's really no one's fault. That is just what happened".

Why were 20,000 pallets of water left on a runway?

"It wasn't because this president doesn't care about Puerto Rico".

Another FEMA official had told CBS: '"If [FEMA] put that water on that runway, there will be hell to pay".

"The victims in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico in general, do not deserve to have their pain questioned", Rosello said.

"The missing part was empathy", Mr. Bossert said. "You couldn't get to people for a long time on the island because roads were washed out, power was gone and the casualties mounted for a long time", Ryan said.

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