Donald Trump denies 3K died in Puerto Rico, says Dems ‘trying to make me look as bad as possible’
President Trump denied Thursday that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and accused Democrats of trying to “make me look as bad as possible” by increasing the death toll months after the fact.
He argued that the thousands who died were counted after “a long time” after the two hurricanes hit the island.
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. 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... Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
.....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! Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
In August, the official death toll rose from 64 to 2,975. That number more than doubled a previous estimate of 1,437 that the Puerto Rican government sent to Congress.
The nearly 3,000 deaths were found by analysts from George Washington University commissioned to investigate the extent of death resulting from Hurricane Maria. They did so by comparing the number of deaths from September and February 2018 to an estimate based on historical patterns since 2010.
Mr. Trump’s comments come after he spent two days praising his administration’s response to the disaster. He said FEMA’s work there was an “unappreciated great job.”
He said it was a success despite having to deal with “an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan.”
The Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello slammed the president’s comments and argued that the relationship between “a colony and the federal government” could never be successful.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The analysts concluded that there was a “lack of awareness” and training for those working on death certification after the storm. This fact “limited the count of deaths that were reported as related to Hurricane Maria.”
The Puerto Rican Vital Statistics System was offline “for some time” because of the storm, which caused some delay in death registration, though the reports were complete and accurate in the end.
The study also found that the elderly and low-income Puerto Ricans were the most affected by the storm.
It determined that the government of Puerto Rico did not do enough in the early days following the storm to stem misreporting. The government experienced a breakdown in communication and a lack of coordination among local, state and federal officials.
“The inadequate preparedness and personnel training for crisis and emergency risk communication, combined with numerous barriers to accurate, timely information and factors that increased rumor generation, ultimately decreased the perceived transparency and credibility of the Government of Puerto Rico,” the study read.
Category 4 Hurricane Maria slammed into the island in September, just weeks after Category 5 Hurricane Irma grazed the island.
Hurricane Maria was deadlier than Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm that killed 1,833 people in 2005.
House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer slammed Mr. Trump for focusing on himself.
“Only Donald Trump would try to make the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans into a story about himself and his political fortunes,” Mr. Hoyer said in a statement. “Shame on him, and shame on this Congress for not holding him and his Administration accountable for their role in these tragic and preventable deaths.”
The congressman argued that Republicans should have done more to investigate the federal response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to find out why so many were “left without power, clean water, health care, and other basic services for months afterward.”