Trump contradicts Puerto Rico’s toll, says 3,000 didn’t die from hurricanes

A road is washed out east of Ceiba, Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in September 2017. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that he doesn't believe nearly 3,000 people died in the hurricanes. Photo by Cpl. Juan Soto-Delgado/USMC

Sept. 13 (UPI) — Though Puerto Rico’s official estimate indicates otherwise, President Donald Trump said he doesn’t believe thousands in the territory died because of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Instead, Trump said, Democrats inflated the number to make him look bad. He said after he visited the island last year, the death toll was no greater than 18 and as time passed, “it did not go up by much.”

Other estimates, however, contradict the president’s comments. Results of a Harvard University study released in May said at least 4,645 died because of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico upped its official estimate to 1,427 deaths in a draft report dated in July.

In August, a new study from George Washington University and the University of Puerto Rico put the death toll at 2,975, tallying direct and indirect deaths from September 2017 to February 2018. The territory then raised the official death toll to reflect that estimate.

Hurricane Maria and Irma hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, knocking out power in the U.S. territory. Some Puerto Ricans are still without power a year later.

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolinas Thursday morning, Trump tweeted, “3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers like 3,000.”

He continued in a second tweet, “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico.”

Trump has said previously that his administration’s handling of the disaster was “an incredible unsung success.”

That prompted an angry response from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who tweeted, “Success? Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico a success? If he thinks the death of 3,000 people [is] a success God help us all.”

On social media, Cruz commented on Trump’s latest tweet nine times, adding her own statements in English and Spanish, calling him “delusional, paranoid and unhinged” and saying “Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT.”


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