Hurricane Maria’s Newly Released Death Toll Is Almost As High As 9/11

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President Donald Trump previously lavished praise unto his own administration for its response in the weeks after the hurricane hit. His tune hasn't changed.

President Donald Trump speaks from behind his desk at the Oval Office in the White House.

In the wake of the devastation that was wrought by Hurricane Maria last year, President Donald Trump bragged that his administration’s response to the storm on the island territory of Puerto Rico was a perfect score.

When asked to rank it on a scale of 1 to 10, Trump was quick to give himself the highest rating.

“I would say it’s a 10,” he said at the time.

Many people were skeptical of that score, which the president based, in part, on the low official death count that had been proclaimed at the time. A new study commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico gives justification to those initial doubts.

Approximately 2,975 individuals perished in the months after the storm, according to research conducted by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. The deaths are recorded from September 2017 to February 2018, and are directly attributed to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.

Part of the death count can be attributed directly to the fact that many people remained without power for several months after the storm had passed. Lack of power for medical devices, as well as the inability to refrigerate foods for survival, led to many of the deaths, according to reporting from Earther.

In the weeks after the storm, Trump was apparently too optimistic about the “official” death count — which, at the time was 16 people counted as dead — to recognize the reality of the situation, that the death count would undoubtedly rise much higher when all was said and done.

“You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people, working together,” Trump said to territorial Gov. Ricardo Rossello upon visiting the island. “Sixteen [deaths] versus literally thousands of people [during Hurricane Katrina in 2005]. You can be very proud.”

Following the new death toll totals being announced this week, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who had begged for Trump to do more to help the island, directed her comments during an interview on Wednesday morning toward the president.

“Two thousand nine hundred and seventy-five dead. Is that what he's proud of?” she asked.

Amazingly, Trump doubled down on his comments from a year ago, stating today he was still proud of his administration’s response.

“I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico...Most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we've done,” the president said on Wednesday.

This is not acceptable. Trump, in still trying to claim he did a good job, is ignoring the devastation that hit the island, and his administration’s terrible response to it. As journalist Ken Klippenstein pointed out, the number of people who died on the island rivals that of how many perished on 9/11, which was 2,977.

Nobody in their right mind would look at this situation and consider it a success — nobody, that is, except for this president. Trump is out of touch with reality, and his defiance in continuing to consider his administration’s response to this storm a good outcome is incomprehensible.

Banner/thumbnail image credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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