President Donald Trump says he believes the federal government did a "fantastic job in Puerto Rico" despite the deaths of nearly 3,000 people after Hurricane Maria.
Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday: "We have invested a lot of money and a lot of effort in Puerto Rico."
He added that he thinks that "most of the people of Puerto Rico really appreciate what we have done."
The governor of the United States this week raised the official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975, almost double the previous government estimate.
Trump is targeting the island's preexisting financial and infrastructure challenges, but falsely claims that his power plant was "dead" and "closed" before Maria struck.
Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that we've invested a lot of money and a lot of effort in Puerto Rico & # 39;
The Electric Power Authority of Puerto Rico has a debt of more than $ 9 billion, but it was operating.
After almost a year of controversy over the true cost of the monstrous storm of September 2017, the governor of Puerto Rico said that the new estimate would now be considered the official death toll.
Donald Trump previously described the death toll in Puerto Rico not as a true catastrophe like Katrina & # 39; when he saw the devastation by himself.
By comparison, the number of fatalities from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – the most expensive hurricane in US history. UU .- was much smaller, and it was estimated at 1.833.
"I am giving an order to update the official number of deaths to 2,975," Governor Ricardo Rosselló told a news conference.
"Although this is an estimate, it has a scientific basis."
The destroyed buildings are seen from the air during the recovery efforts four weeks after the passage of Hurricane Maria on October 18, 2017 in flight over Puerto Rico
The destroyed house of the Pérez family is seen, in Juana Matos, Cataño, Puerto Rico, on October 4, 2017, two weeks after Hurricane Maria
An aerial view of the houses affected by Hurricane Maria in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, October 23, 2017
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing widespread devastation and causing $ 90 billion in damage.
It is classified as the third most expensive cyclone in the United States since 1900.
The official record of long-term deaths of the Puerto Rican government by María was only 64 years old.
To obtain a more accurate assessment, Rossello commissioned the independent study of George Washington University (GWU).
The study tracked the excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria from September 2017 to February 2018, and found that the number of deaths was 22% greater than the number of deaths that would have been expected during that period in an average year, without such a deadly hurricane.
Trump speaks with Governor Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on October 19, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Trump and Rosselló talked about the ongoing recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria
"The results of our epidemiological study suggest that, tragically, Hurricane Maria caused a large number of excessive deaths throughout the island," said lead researcher Carlos Santos-Burgoa, professor of global health at GWU.
"Certain groups, those in low-income areas and the elderly, face the greatest risk."
A separate study conducted by Harvard University earlier this year estimated that around 4,600 people had died in the three months after the storm.
The authors of the last report described it as "the most rigorous study of excess mortality due to the hurricane made to date".
He analyzed death certificates and other mortality data for six months from September 2017 to February 2018.
The excess deaths were estimated with the help of mathematical models that compared post-hurricane deaths with the expected number according to historical patterns, and were adjusted for age, sex and migration from the island.
President Donald Trump throws paper towels to a crowd while delivering supplies at Calvary Chapel, on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
The team also identified failures in the system that may have led to underreporting of deaths previously, including lack of communication and poor training for physicians on how to certify deaths in the event of disasters.
Rosselló told the newspaper El Nueva Día that the findings, in my opinion, demonstrate the catastrophe we always noticed that María had been, and of course the inadequacy of the standard protocols we had.
The governor said he would sign an executive order to create a committee to examine the recommendations of the GWU investigators and find ways to implement them.
Earlier Harvard University findings blamed most of the deaths after Hurricane Maria for interruptions in medical care due to power outages and blocked or washed-out roads.
Households went through an average of 84 days without electricity, 64 days without water and 41 days without cell phone coverage after the storm.
Puerto Rico stopped publicly sharing its data on hurricane deaths in December 2017.