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"Donald Trump today desecrated the thousands of Puerto Ricans who died in Hurricane Maria", he said.

The 3,000 number is an approximation from a George Washington University study that estimated how many "excess deaths" occurred as a effect of Hurricane Maria, rather than as a result of the normal life cycle on the island.

The study, which was conducted without the backing of any political group, surveyed 3,000 residences across the United States' territory and found Puerto Ricans died at a much higher rate in the four months following the hurricane than in the same time period a year earlier.

"I really don't know the number of deaths but it is certainly more than 16 whatever the initial reports were".

Mr. Trump inaccurately stated that only six to 18 people died "after" the storm hit the island and said Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age "in order to make me look as bad as possible".

Trump disputed the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, denying that 3,000 people died on the island.

In Florida, which was badly hit by Hurricane Irma previous year and which received thousands of Puerto Ricans fleeing the devastation of their homes, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis - who has built his campaign around his adherence to Trump's politics - tried to distance himself from the president's words. That's actually lower than the estimate published by Harvard researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine - 4,645 - but it still puts Maria's death toll on a par with 9/11, whose 17th anniversary we just commemorated. An independent study accepted by Puerto Rico officials concluded that 2,975 people died from the storm and its aftermath.

A spokesman for former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who won the Florida GOP primary for governor with Trump's support, said the congressman did not agree with Trump's tweets.

Trump has previously said his administration's handling of the storms was "an incredible unsung success".


San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said the president's comments "added insult to injury".

Puerto Rico was recovering from Hurricane Irma before Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017, destroying roads and bridges and leaving much of the Caribbean island without electricity for months. "I think the president is in a position to find out why that is and I hope he can report the reason", said Sen.

Members of both parties on Capitol Hill disagreed with the president's statements.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello says in a Facebook video post in Spanish that there should no more questions about the number of deaths from Hurricane Maria and the process used to arrive at that number. He was reacting to President Donald Trump's tweets that dispute the projected death toll from Hurricane Maria previous year.

"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.

But Trump, that official said, was unwilling to admit even internally that more needed to be done on the island. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand.

Some well-known Republicans split with Trump on the issue.

George Washington University stood by the science behind its findings, calling the figure of 2,975 deaths "the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date".

Rubio noted that the mainland FEMA recovery model doesn't work on islands and that it took too long for U.S. Department of Defense to take control due to resistance from Washington and the Puerto Rican government.


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