Trump rejects Puerto Rico hurricane death toll

Hurricane Maria devastated large parts of Puerto Rico

US President Donald Trump has official figures which state 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of last year's devastating Hurricane Maria, saying the number was invented by political rivals to undercut his image. On Thursday, Trump insisted in a pair of tweets that the official death toll was concocted by "Democrats" as part of a conspiracy to "make me look as bad as possible". He said the toll was no greater than 18 when he visited the island previous year and "did not go up by much". "Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3,000".

Last month, it was placed at 2,975 after the government commissioned an independent study by public health experts at George Washington University.

Former Vice President Joe Biden mocked Trump's baseless claim, and the study's authors stood by their work, calling it "the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date". "It was devastating. It was a disgusting storm".

He also said that "the victims nor the people of Puerto Rico deserve to have their pain questioned".

There is no evidence to back up Trump's tweets that politics played a role in calculating the death toll and the White House has not commented on the message from the President.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) slammed Trump, saying it's shameful that he would try to make the deaths of almost 3,000 American citizens into "a story about himself and his political fortunes".

Ahead of Florence striking the U.S. east coast, Mr Trump spoke with political leaders in the Carolinas and offered "whatever is needed", Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesman, said.

Cora, who spends time in Puerto Rico in the offseason, said many people on the island are still struggling, but he's encouraged by the progress being made every day. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. "It's just what happened".

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Cora told reporters he respects Trump, but noted that he doesn't "agree with a lot of stuff he says about us".

"This was the worst natural disaster in our modern history", Rossello said".

This is not the first time Trump has tried to downplay the catastrophic hurricane, during his visit to the island soon after Maria hit, Trump said Puerto Ricans should be thankful it wasn't a "real catastrophe" like Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Trump earlier this week described his administration's efforts in Puerto Rico as an "unsung success".

The unusually high death rate never completely reached the normal level even after six months, the researchers found - a sign of Puerto Rico's continued struggle to deal with the effects of the hurricane.

That morning, Politico reported that FEMA's top official, Brock Long, may have "misused government resources and personnel", sparking a Department of Homeland Security investigation. "Our basic infrastructure was devastated, thousands of our people lost their lives and many others still struggle".

"I hate that people are making it a political issue".

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