“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” he said, without basis. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had naywhere 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.”
Twelve minutes later, the president added, “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!
According to a recent independent study by George Washington University’s public health school with the support of the Demographic Registry of Puerto Rico, 2,975 died on the island between September 2017 and February 2018. This is 22 percent higher than the number of people who would’ve died during that time frame without the natural disasters, The New York Times reported.
This number was accepted as the official death toll by the Puerto Rico government, according to NBC News.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello responded to Trump’s comments on Thursday during a Facebook Live video. “The victims of Puerto Rico and the people of Puerto Rico in general do not deserve to be questioned about their pain,” Rossello said. He also asked for more help from federal agencies.
Many responded in outrage to the president’s tweets, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wrote, “This is a flat-out lie, @realDonaldTrump.”
San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz wrote on Twitter, “Damn it: this is NOT about politics this was always about SAVING LIVES.”
President Trump has been accused of failing to meet the needs of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and before it, Hurricane Irma. U.S. citizens on the island went without power for months, and for weeks after the storm barely half had drinking water, according to The Atlantic. In February, the Senate reached a two-year budget deal that would give Puerto Rico almost $16 billion in aid, but it was far short of the $94.4 officials said they needed to rebuild the island and prevent future devastation, The Times reported.
Despite notable missteps, Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning that he got “an A Plus” for his response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, as well as Hurricane Irma, which also hit Florida last year. He further claimed he did an “unappreciated job in Puerto Rico.”
The president also referenced his preparedness for Hurricane Florence, which is expected to ravage the East Coat this week.
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An estimated 1,833 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The public response to then-President Bush’s relief efforts was also overwhelmingly negative. When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, about 51 people died, according to an Associated Press report from the time, though it was thought to have been an epic disaster. Hurricane Harvey killed about 88 people, but many residents are still struggling to rebuild their homes more than a year later. According to World Vision, Harvey was also the second most damaging Hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900 after Katrina.