Trump touts Puerto Rico response as 'fantastic' despite almost 3,000 dead


On Tuesday, the official death toll from Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean island in almost a century, was raised to nearly 3,000.

The team also identified flaws in the system that may have led to an under-reporting of deaths previously, including lack of communication, and poor training for doctors on how to certify deaths in disasters. The latest Puerto Rico figure was derived from comparisons between predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after the storm, a number that turned out to be 22 percent higher.

The George Washington researchers said the official count from the September 20 hurricane was low in part because doctors were not trained in how to classify deaths after a disaster.

They say the elderly and impoverished were most at risk.

The revised figure was first "revealed" by the Puerto Rico government, according to the final report, on June 13, one day after officials were forced by a judge to release death records that CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo in Puerto Rico had sued to make public.

Trump has come under stiff criticism for his handling of the disaster, principally from Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital city San Juan.

Trump said Wednesday that Puerto Rico faced issues with its infrastructure prior to the storm, falsely claiming that the USA territory's power plant was "dead" before the hurricane hit.

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There are 1,038 families in 27 states and Puerto Rico.

"It's a very strong message in Puerto Rico and people addressing natural disasters all over the world: Don't treat people as homogenous groups", Santos-Burgoa said.

"I strongly urge the parties to work together to find temporary housing, or other assistance to the Plaintiffs and other members of the class prior to that date", U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman of MA reportedly wrote in his ruling. In December, The New York Times estimated 1,052 "excess deaths" occurred after Maria.

"I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico", Trump told reporters.

One month after Maria, when the official number of people killed stood at 16, Trump said that the disaster was nothing compared to Hurricane Katrina's death toll. "I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we've done".

"Do you know what it's like to see your mother run out of oxygen?" she said. Puerto Rico was hit by storms Maria, Irma and Philippe, and was narrowly missed by hurricane Jose.

Months ago, the Rossello administration stopped updating its official death toll at 64 and ordered the independent investigation amid suspicions the dead were substantially undercounted.