Trump pushes conspiracy theory denying Puerto Rico hurricane death toll

Clay Curtis
September 13, 2018

FEMA has confirmed that a huge stockpile of bottled water, sent to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, has been sitting on a runway for a year - despite Donald Trump branding the U.S. response an incredible success.

The massive number was revealed in late August after the Puerto Rican government claimed for nearly a year that only 64 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The mayor of Ceiba, Angel Cruz Ramos, told CNN he's grateful for the generosity, but believes that too much water was delivered at the wrong time.

News about the abandoned water bottles comes as FEMA and state and local authorities prepare to respond to Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall along the East Coast sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning.

He added: "This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico".

The Republican president suggested the hurricane death toll was artificially inflated by adding those who passed away from natural causes such as old age.

In a statement, the GSA Administrator for Puerto Rico, Ottmar Chávez, said FEMA "reported that it had an excess of bottled water in May 2018, before I became the agency's administrator".

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Trump said Tuesday during a briefing on a Category 4 hurricane approaching the Eastern Seaboard that last year's hurricane in Puerto Rico was the "hardest one by far" because it happened on an island. At the time, the government's death toll stood at 64.

A George Washington University study in July found that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, which struck the island territory in September 2017.

That assessment brought sharp rebukes from officials in Puerto Rico and congressional Democrats.

In the Oval Office on Tuesday, the president praised his administration's response to the series of storms in 2017.

"Only Donald Trump could see the tragedy in Puerto Rico and conclude that he is the victim", said Sen.

The adjustment of the official death toll followed almost a year of campaigning by journalists, activists and academics to get the government to officially acknowledge the scale of devastation because 64 people was always considered an underestimate.

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