Trump Continues to Promote Puerto Rico Deaths Conspiracy Theory

Stacks upon stacks of bottled water sit near a runway in Ceiba Puerto Rico

A recent federal report found that almost 3,000 people died in Maria's wake in Puerto Rico, with damages estimated at about $100 billion.

Earlier this month, the governor of Puerto Rico raised the death toll to 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers from the Milken Institute at George Washington University at the government's request.

Since the hurricane struck in September past year, several investigations by academics and journalists suggested the death toll was much higher than the official count, which for months stayed at 64.

At the same time, the top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, said he had no reason to dispute the official death toll, while Republican Senator Marco Rubio said tragedy should not be politicised.

As Tropical Storm Florence inundated the Carolinas on Friday, President Donald Trump circled back to his claim that the official death toll from a devastating storm a year earlier in Puerto Rico was inflated and said the number of dead seemed to rise from double digits to 3,000 "like magic".

Trump reignited the controversy around the USA government's management of the disaster when he said Tuesday it was an "incredible, unsung success". But Trump, whose efforts to help the island territory recover have been persistently criticized, was having none of that.

Trump said the number of deaths when he visited Puerto Rico after the storm was "from 6 to 18", even though news outlets were already reporting dozens, if not hundreds, of additional casualties that were likely uncounted.

It was that number on which Puerto Rican authorities based their official tally.

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That report, while acknowledging that Puerto Rico's power system was on "life support" before the hurricane, also said that approximately 96 per cent of residents had power restored to them after Hurricane Irma hit before Maria.

Nerybelle Perez holds a picture of her father, World War II veteran Efrain Perez, who died inside an ambulance after being turned away from the largest public hospital when it had no electricity or water, days after Hurricane Maria passed, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, June 7, 2018.

"3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", Trump wrote.

"I hate that people make it a political issue", Cora said before Thursday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In fact, when Air Force One left Puerto Rico, the death toll stood at 45. Trump continued calling it an "unsung success" hampered by San Juan Mayor Carmon Yulin Cruz, and the whole "island" thing.

When asked what he planned on telling President Trump, Long said he was going to "let him know we're pre-positioned the best we can be".

For the first few weeks, the death toll was only put at 16.

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