US President Donald Trump has rejected the widely accepted death toll of almost 3000 people in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, saying the number was a plot by Democrats to make him look bad.
The President tweeted his extraordinary claim, without providing any evidence, as Hurricane Florence bore down on the US east coast on Friday morning (AEST).
“When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to 18 deaths,” Mr Trump said.
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
“As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…”
Puerto Rico’s governor raised the US territory’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2975 after an independent study found the number of people who died in the aftermath had been severely under-reported.
However Mr Trump implied the death toll was revised for political reasons.
“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” he tweeted.
Maria devastated the island in September 2017 and knocked out the entire electricity grid.
Researchers from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University said the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster.
The elderly and impoverished were hardest hit by the hurricane.
The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital accused Mr Trump of being “delusional”.
Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT. pic.twitter.com/K96H5O3NKM
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) September 13, 2018
“Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tweeted.
“Damn it: this is NOT about politics this was always about SAVING LIVES.”
Mr Cruz maintains the federal government’s response to the hurricane was slow and inadequate while Trump said it was a success.