Trump declares thousands of deaths in Puerto Rico fake news

Andrew Caballero  AFP  Getty ImagesA large rain cloud passes over a day before the arrival of hurricane Florence in Wilmington N.C. on Sept. 12 2018

Andrew Caballero AFP Getty ImagesA large rain cloud passes over a day before the arrival of hurricane Florence in Wilmington N.C. on Sept. 12 2018

His comments came before Trump tweeted Thursday a recent official report putting Puerto Rico's death toll from 2017's Hurricane Maria at almost 3,000, was wrong and "done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible".

Trump had earlier said the reported death tolls from the storm that devastated Puerto Rico were exaggerated, and included older people and others who died.

"As time went by it did not go up by much", Trump wrote.

Trump had questioned the findings of a study released last month by George Washington University that examined the toll from Hurricane Maria.

That's despite new estimates that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm - a number Trump now doesn't believe is accurate, blaming Democrats for inflating the number for political gain.

"Although you don't believe it... nearly a million boxes of water that were never delivered to the villages", posted Abdiel Santana, a photographer working for a Puerto Rican state police agency who took the pictures.

"I think these statements make him illegitimate as a president of the United States", she said.

Mr Trump's tweets came as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coast and is expected to cause unsafe flooding and tornadoes.

Paul Ryan, the Republican house speaker, said he had "no reason to dispute" the death toll of 3,000.

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The death toll study was commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, a member of Puerto Rico's "New Progressive Party".

In a pair of tweets Thursday, Trump accused Democrats of inflating the number to make him look bad.

"The job that FEMA, and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous", Trump added.

Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Democrat mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, called Mr Trump "delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality". Those were not needed during the response phase and were not distributed by the governor of Puerto Rico or FEMA for that reason'. "That is just what happened".

Hostin blamed the Jones Act, saying it allowed the US government to "pillage and rape" the island since its inception in 1920, before asking why Trump didn't have an equal reaction to Maria as President Obama did to Haiti, which isn't even a USA territory.

However, the report says, "the Government of Puerto Rico does not have control over the federal land" and was unable to get to the water.

Trump's praise on Twitter for his handling of the government's recovery operations on Puerto Rico came after he told reporters that the rescue effort there was an "incredible, unsung success".

"This was the worst natural disaster in our modern history", Rossello said". He added: "Casualties don't make a person look bad".

Trump's administration has been faulted for its response to Hurricane Maria.

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