Trump says response to Puerto Rico storm underappreciated

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Last week, officials in Puerto Rico revised the death toll upward from 64 to 2,975 people.

Governor Rick Scott, who is running for the United States senate, tweeted: "I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand".

President Donald Trump continued to insist Wednesday that his administration did a "great job" in responding to Hurricane Maria, which left almost 3,000 people dead, as Hurricane Florence rolls toward the Carolina coast.

But Mr Trump, whose efforts to help the island territory recover have been persistently criticised, said just six to 18 people had been reported dead when he visited two weeks after the storm. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand.

An estimated 2,975 people died in the Category 4 storm's aftermath when medical resources were strained beyond the breaking point.

"Casualties don't make a person look bad", House Speaker Paul Ryan said. While Trump was right when he said Puerto Rico's infrastructure wasn't the greatest before the storm, that wasn't news to anyone: Chronic underfunding and lack of federal support made it very hard for Puerto Rican officials and residents to build climate resilience - especially since the federal government's current official line is that climate change doesn't exist. "So I have no reason to dispute those numbers".

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been a vocal critic of the administration's handling of the storm, has cast blame on the federal government for failing to provide adequate assistance in the aftermath of the storm, and slammed Trump's assertion Tuesday. "The loss of any life is tragic", Scott continued, "the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching".

After Trump received backlash from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers over this false claim, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley released a statement Thursday that said, "As the President said, every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror".

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This partnership survey from The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation explores how Puerto Ricans are faring one year after Hurricane Maria struck the USA territory.

Trump, who has struggled to express public empathy at times of national crises, sparked outrage during his post-Maria visit when he feuded with San Juan mayor and passed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets. The study said the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster.

He also suggested that many had been added later "if a person died for any reason, like old age".

But Trump, that official said, was unwilling to admit even internally that more needed to be done on the island.

Puerto Rico's government is run by the New Progressive party, a pro-statehood, Puerto Rico-only party.

"But the President continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of SC and the people of North Carolina", Cruz said. Trump believed those recovery efforts were a success story he could use to turn the tide of negative press stories after a troubled August, said one official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

But Trump suggested Friday that it was questionable that the Puerto Rican government commissioned the study from an outside group.

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