"I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico," Trump told CNN on Wednesday, referring to federal aid efforts following Hurricane María's devastating aftermath last year. "We're still helping Puerto Rico."
The study, which accounted for those who died of after-storm effects, such as excess heat and poor living conditions, prompted Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to formally raise the official death toll from the original – albeit wildly naive – figure of 64 fatalities to an estimated 2,975 deaths.
JUST IN: Puerto Rico Gov. Rossello announces "we will take the 2,975 number as the official estimate" for the excess deaths caused by Hurricane Maria; move comes after release of report commissioned by officials.— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 28, 2018
Previous official gov't death toll was 64. https://t.co/ySiu6TeVaK pic.twitter.com/PpdGCg3nu3
Earlier this month, following a study from Harvard University in May that estimated the death toll to be between 800 and 8,500, the Puerto Rican government admitted that the number of fatalities may be closer to 1,400 – yet another gross underestimate, as we've learned this week.
"Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher," the Puerto Rican government said in a draft report. "On June 13, the Government of Puerto Rico revealed that there were 1,427 more deaths in the four months after the hurricanes than normal (based on the previous four years), and it will update the official count after a George Washington University study is completed."
But as for Trump, this isn't the time he's found an opportunity to toot his own horn over the ongoing Puerto Rican crisis. Last year, during a Oval Office meeting with Rosselló, the president awarded himself a "10 out of 10" for his administration's disaster recovery efforts.
"Didn't we do a great job?" Trump asked Rosselló at the meeting.
Going further, Trump has also likened his administration's recovery efforts to the Bush administration's after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which, when all was said and done, accounted for roughly 1,200 fatalities – less than half of the latest estimated death tally in Puerto Rico.
Following Trump's comments earlier this week, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said on CNN, "The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect. The Trump administration led us to believe they were helping when they weren't up to par, and they didn't allow other countries to help us."
Cruz later added: "Shame on President Trump. Shame on President Trump for not even once, not even yesterday, just saying, 'Look, I grieve with the people of Puerto Rico.'"
As a result of the hurricane, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans fled the island after the natural disasters, with the majority resettling in Florida.
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