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Views and Experiences of Puerto Ricans One Year After Hurricane Maria

17 September, 2018, 13:47 | Author: Ted Wilson
  • Win McNamee  Getty Images

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday he had "no reason" to dispute Puerto Rico's official death toll of 3,000 from last year's Hurricane Maria, speaking after his fellow Republican President Donald Trump accused Democrats of inflating the death toll to make the president look bad. As time went by it did not go up by much.

Shortly after Maria hit previous year, Trump visited Puerto Rico and was widely criticized for tossing paper towels to storm victims in a manner seen by many as insensitive to the scope of the disaster.

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

Trump then blamed Democrats for the figures, "to make me look as bad as possible".

Puerto Rico's official death toll from Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean island in almost a century, was raised last month from 64, a number widely discounted as far too low, to nearly 3,000, based on a study ordered by the governor of the U.S. territory. Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him.

"Casualties don't make a person look bad", Ryan told reporters at a regular press conference, "so I have no reason to dispute these numbers".

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But Trump suggested Friday that it was questionable that the Puerto Rican government commissioned the study from an outside group. North and SC and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

An estimated 2,975 people died in the Category 4 storm's aftermath when medical resources were strained beyond the breaking point. The study said the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster. 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. Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover.

Trump said Tuesday, "I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful". Then came Maria and devastation in Puerto Rico, where a slow federal response was complicated by logistical concerns and preexisting economic and infrastructure deficiencies on the island territory.

Cruz said she spoke with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Wilmington, North Carolina, Mayor Bill Saffo to "just (let) them know, we know how it feels".

She continued, "But the President continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of SC and the people of North Carolina". Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a state where many Puerto Ricans moved after the devastating hurricanes, tweeted that he disagrees with Trump and that "an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed".

"Significant obstacles still remain", Rossello said, acknowledging that emergency protocols in place prior to Maria were inadequate. "President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan Mayor who sadly, have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations". And almost 60,000 households across Puerto Rico still don't have a proper roof capable of withstanding a Category 1 storm, said Fernando Gil, the island's housing secretary.

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