Trump claims Hurricane Maria death toll rose 'like magic'

Minnie Murray
September 15, 2018

Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) - all blamed President Donald Trump and his administration for the nearly 3,000 people who reportedly died, using a death toll concluded through a statistical model by academics at George Washington University.

As Florence approached the Carolinas on Thursday morning, Trump's frustrations over persistent Maria criticism boiled over on Twitter, where he floated a new conspiracy about the updated death toll: "This was done by Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible".

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports.

Several other reports have also put the death toll in the thousands.

Trump has particularly been irritated by video footage of him throwing rolls of paper towels to a crowd of relief workers on the island, according to The Washington Post. "Before, during, and after the two massive hurricanes, the President directed the entire Administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico", White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said. And like I said: 'Hey man, thank you for helping us.' He went down there, he did what he did.

President Donald Trump is denying that 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Trump approvingly quoted Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera's Tweet saying the botched response was not entirely Trump's fault on Friday night.

The study concluded the initial death toll of 64 only included those killed directly by hurricanes Maria and Irma - either by drowning, flying debris or building collapse.

"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them on to the list", he tweeted.

"I mean, at what point do you recognize that what they're doing is a political agenda, couched in the nice language of journalism?"

Thursday's tweets drew the ire of Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, who has sharply criticized both the president and his administration's response to Maria.

The George Washington University study Puerto Rico commissioned - after many months of public complaints that casualties from the storm had been under-counted - compared the total number of deaths in the months following Hurricane Maria with historical patterns and demographic trends. She noted the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico led to massive power outages and "the longest blackout in American history". We still. you see the hurricanes forming now.

The key part of the research is an estimate of "excess mortality" from September 2017 to February 2018.

A CBS reporter who picked up on the viral photos of the unused water bottles confirmed that they were brought to the island and turned over to Puerto Rico's central government.

"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.

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