Trump disputes estimate of Puerto Rico storm deaths

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US President Donald Trump on Thursday disputed Puerto Rico's official death toll of 3,000 from last year's Hurricane Maria, bristling at criticism of his administration's handling of that disaster as another hurricane barrelled toward the Southeast. As time went by it did not go up by much.

"They hired GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?)", Trump wrote.

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

Trump falsely accused Democrats on Thursday of inflating the Puerto Rican toll to make him "look as bad as possible".

Puerto Rico's governor last month raised Maria's official death toll from 64 to 2,975 after an independent study found that the number of people who succumbed in the sweltering aftermath had been severely undercounted.

The impact of both storms was made worse by inadequate federal response and racial disparities - with Katrina affecting heavily black communities, while Puerto Rico predominantly impacted Latinx communities.

For DeSantis, breaking from Trump marked a major, first shift away from the conservative base voters that carried him to a victory in the primary. "He has a golf club in North Carolina and a winery in Virginia, so maybe the American people in those states will get more of the president's help than my fellow Puerto Ricans did".

"The safety of American people is my absolute highest priority", Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

The death toll from Hurricane Maria is estimated to be almost 3000, a steep increase from the initial 64.

Gidley cited studies that attributed fewer than 3,000 deaths on the island to Maria. Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover. Ten municipalities still have intermittent internet and phone service, said Sandra Torres, president of the island's telecommunications regulatory board.

"Hurricane Florence is looking even bigger than anticipated". 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.

The president also sent two tweets - one featuring a video message - warning people of the danger of Hurricane Florence as it approaches the East Coast, and assuring residents that emergency responders are prepared. Cruz had earlier described the federal disaster response in the U.S. territory a "despicable act of neglect".

The stockpile is believed to have been a part of aid package meant for the survivors of Hurricane Maria, which wrought havoc on the USA territory in 2017.

The death toll study was commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, a member of Puerto Rico's "New Progressive Party". He also said he was still waiting for Trump to respond to a petition to help Puerto Rico complete work on emergency housing restoration programs and debris removal. All told, about 1,800 people died in that 2005 storm.

Trump, having long struggled to express empathy at times of national crises, sparked outrage when during his visit to the island he feuded with the mayor of San Juan and passed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets.