President Trump plans to visit Florence-impacted areas next week

Leroy Wright
September 15, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday disputed Puerto Rico's official death toll of 3,000 from hurricanes past year and accused Democrats of inflating the figure that was reached in an independent academic study.

Trump tweeted the estimated death toll, provided by the Puerto Rican governor's office and based on the findings of an independent study, erroneously counted deaths from old age in the number of clear casualties of the hurricane.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump said 3,000 people "did not die" after the hurricane, and that when he left the island after the storm hit, there were between six and 18 deaths.

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports. "By now we have over four studies that put the death total over the thousands", Dr. Domingo J. Marqués, associate professor of clinical psychology and director of the dialectical behavioral research and therapy program at Albizu University in San Juan, said via email.

At a news conference to discuss hurricane response and recovery early Friday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump's tweet by saying, "Think about that, pray over that".

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, objected to President Donald Trump's comments on Twitter about the devastation Hurricane Maria did to his home in 2017. And like I said, hey man, thank you for helping us.

Trump's comment renewed criticism of the government's response to two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico past year.

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However Trump implied the death toll was revised for political reasons.

After enduring months of criticism for not fully reckoning with the toll of Maria, the Puerto Rico's government quickly adopted the study as itsofficial death toll. "I like Puerto Ricans who don't die, '" Colbert joked in his Trump impression, referencing of course the president's infamous dig at the late Senator John McCain.

"If (Trump) doesn't learn from his mistakes, he's going to make them again and people are going to continue to die".

The report was commissioned by Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who faced public pressure after the original death toll was widely disputed.

"This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch".

A USA government report published this month concluded that the federal response in Puerto Rico was hampered by a lack of trained staff as well as by major logistical challenges. In recent days, Trump publicly lauded his own administration's response to Maria and privately groused over storm-related news coverage that he saw as overly focused on Puerto Rico, according to two Republican advisers close to the White House who weren't authorized to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The updated tally would make Maria one of the deadliest single-disaster events in recent USA history.

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