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(NEW YORK POST) – President Trump on Thursday roundly denied that nearly 3,000 people died when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico – and accused Democrats of fudging the death toll to “make me look as bad as possible.”
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” he tweeted. “As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…”
In a follow-up tweet, he continued, “…..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.”
Trump’s comments directly contradict a report commissioned by island officials that found that 2,975 people died because of the disaster. Initially, only 64 people were believed to have perished when Maria swept over the US island territory last September — a couple weeks after it was battered by Hurricane Irma. But that total ballooned in the report, conducted by George Washington University researchers, which calculated deaths that occurred between September 2017 and February 2018.
The report took into account deaths in the storm’s aftermath due to lack of electricity, clean water and access to medical care.
Trump said that unrelated deaths were added to inflate the number.
“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he wrote.
Trump’s tweets sparked a livid response from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who called him a “bully” before unleashing a series of angry tweets.
“Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality,” Cruz wrote. “Trump is so vain he thinks this is about him. NO IT IS NOT.”
She added, “Damn it: this is NOT about politics this was always about SAVING LIVES.”
Since the revised death toll, Trump has continuously praised his administration – and himself – for doing a “fantastic job” in responding to the hurricane.
He doubled down on those comments this week ahead of Hurricane Florence, which is set to pummel the Carolinas later Thursday.
“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan),” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We are ready for the big one that is coming!”
But the federal response to Maria has drawn sharp criticism for being too slow and woefully underprepared.
The Category 4 storm devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, leaving its nearly 3.4 million resident without power for weeks and knocking out 95 percent of cellphone towers. Electricity was restored to all residents just last month, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
In its own report, the Federal Emergency Management Agency admitted it underestimated how many supplies were needed and how hard it’d be to get them to the island.
Meanwhile, a huge stockpile of water bottles meant for Maria victims were recently discovered sitting at a Puerto Rico airport. FEMA said the supplies were brought to the island and turned over to the “central government” — but it’s unclear why they were never distributed.
Hurricane Maria is estimated to have caused $100 billion in damage when it hit on Sept. 20.
Shortly after the storm, Trump toured San Juan and told officials that the island was lucky it hadn’t faced “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina — while praising that only “16 people versus in the thousands” had died.
At least 1,833 people were killed in Katrina.