Storm response in Puerto Rico 'incredibly successful,' blames mayor for Hurricane Maria

Hugh Fox
September 17, 2018

Earlier this month, the island's governor formally raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at The George Washington University. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a state where many Puerto Ricans moved after the devastating hurricanes, tweeted that he disagrees with Trump and that "an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed".

The president's tweets came as the government prepares for Hurricane Florence's impact on the Carolinas and set off a storm of criticism on Twitter.

When Trump visited in October 2017, two weeks after the storm hit, the death toll at the time was indeed 16 people.

He also said the government now has lists that identify vulnerable populations, including those who live in nursing homes, something considered key given that numerous estimated 2,975 people who died as a result of Maria were elderly people.

Senator Lindsey Graham of SC said: "I don't think it's bad to say we could have done better in Puerto Rico".

"Casualties don't make a person look bad, so I have no reason to dispute these numbers", he said Thursday. 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.

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"The campaign of Rep. Ron DeSantis, a strong ally of Trump's who is the GOP nominee for Florida governor, said in a statement, "[DeSantis] doesn't believe any loss of life has been inflated".

Florida was already home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans before Hurricane Maria slammed into the island territory almost a year ago.

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. And just as Katrina was a smear on the Bush presidency, Maria will live in infamy as a stain on Trump's.

"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list".

Gidley cited studies that attributed fewer than 3,000 deaths on the island to Maria.

Cruz said she spoke with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Wilmington, North Carolina, Mayor Bill Saffo to "just (let) them know, we know how it feels".

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San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz called the president's latest comments "delusional, paranoid and unhinged from any sense of reality".

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

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

Some Republicans also criticized the president's tweet.

Puerto Rico is now facing the peak of hurricane season, with Tropical Storm Isaac expected to drop heavy rain as it passes south of the island between Thursday and Friday.

But Trump has continued to boast about the handling of Maria, calling it "an incredible unsung success" as he warned residents of the Carolinas not to take chances with Florence.

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