Trump says official Puerto Rico hurricane death toll of 3,000 was made up by Democrats 'to make me look bad'

The president is celebrating his administration's alleged 'unsung success' in Puerto Rico as a major hurricane barrels towards the US coastline

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 13 September 2018 15:19 BST
Donald Trump calls government's response to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria a 'incredible unsung success'

Donald Trump has claimed that nearly 3,000 people did not die in Puerto Rico due to the impact of Hurricane Maria, despite the island’s government putting the official death toll at up to 2,975.

The president wrote on Twitter that Democrats inflated the death toll to make him “look as bad as possible” in the wake of criticism over his handling of the response to the disaster.

The official toll had been given as 64, before the release of findings from researchers from George Washington University that lifted the total dramatically in a study commissioned by the US commonwealth’s government. While that number is an estimate, which could rise or fall, it is clear that the number of people killed is far in excess of the “6 to 18 deaths” Mr Trump claimed when he left the island having visited.

“3000 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,” the president tweeted. ”As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000...”

“.....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,” the president continued. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics.”

He added: “I love Puerto Rico!”

The president has spent the week celebrating his administration’s efforts to combat the destructive impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, calling it an “unsung success” and adding in a televised statement to reporters in the White House, “If you ask the governor, he’ll tell you what a great job” was done.

That caused governor Ricardo Rosselló to release a statement criticising the president and correcting his claims.

“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 governor said in the statement. “This was 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. Now is not the time to pass judgement; it is time to channel every effort to improve the lives of over 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico.”

Meanwhile, Hurricane Florence is churning towards the US coastline as a Category Two storm, with an increasing potential for rainfall and storm surging at “catastrophic levels”, according to the National Weather Service.

Hurricane Florence: New satellite video shows storm raging as it heads toward US east coast

Mr Trump has described the oncoming storm as “tremendously big and a tremendously wet” hurricane.

“They haven’t seen anything like what’s coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever,” he said during a White House briefing on how his administration is planning relief efforts surrounding Florence. “It could very well be very similar to Texas in the sense that it’s tremendous amounts of water ... Probably more water than we’ve ever seen in a storm or a hurricane.”

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