Politics

Puerto Rico gov: No doubt nearly 3,000 died due to Maria

Rosselló disputes president's assertion

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The governor of Puerto Rico said Thursday there is no doubt that there were nearly 3,000 deaths as a result of Hurricane Maria, disputing President Donald Trump's assertion that the figure was artificially inflated.

"I evaluated everything they did, and it is my view that it was a very well-done estimate of the death toll numbers," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN's Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto on "CNN Newsroom."

In August, researchers at George Washington University published a report estimating nearly 2,975 people died between September 2017 and February 2018 as a result of the storm. CNN's own reporting reflects similar numbers.

The new figure marked a sharp escalation from numbers released by the Puerto Rican government in December 2017, which said 64 people had died due to the storm.

Last week, Trump disputed the new estimate, tweeting, "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. 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 ..."

Trump also alleged the figure was raised by Democrats "in order to make me look as bad as possible."

There has been no evidence to indicate that partisan politics has played a role in the calculation of the death tally, and George Washington University released a statement saying it stood by its work.

Rosselló, who has been reluctant to contradict the President in the past over his handling of the hurricane, previously disputed Trump's statement on the revised death toll, telling CBS News, "Neither the people of Puerto Rico nor the victims deserve their pain to be questioned."


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