A study published last month from George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, which was commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, found that government emergency plans in place when Maria hit were not designed for hurricanes greater than a Category 1.
Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, seized on Trump's use of the word "successful" and said in a statement at the time: "No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called "successful" because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states".
The true human cost of Maria, and the chaotic federal response to the storm, triggered a year-long controversy, which Trump revived this week even as another powerful hurricane, Florence, bore down on the East Coast. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths", Trump wrote.
He also said the government now has lists that identify vulnerable populations, including those who live in nursing homes, something considered key given that numerous estimated 2,975 people who died as a result of Maria were elderly people. I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand.
"Casualties don't make a person look bad, so I have no reason to dispute these numbers", he said Thursday.
"Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico a success?" A spokesman for former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who won the Florida GOP primary for governor with Trump's support, said he did not agree with Trump's tweets. "The loss of any life is tragic".
He said there are plans to buy 168 generators for Puerto Rico's water and sewer company, which is still relying on several generators given the ongoing power outages almost a year after Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's power grid. The study said the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster.
Trump, having long struggled to express empathy at times of national crises, sparked outrage when during his visit to the island he feuded with the mayor of San Juan and passed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets.
"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list".
" He also criticized Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan and an outspoken Trump critic, suggesting that she was responsible for the catastrophe".
The White House defended the president.
Rossello is a leader of the island's pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which aligns with Republicans, while Cruz is from the Popular Democratic Party, whose members affiliate with the Democratic Party.
The president's tweets came just one day after Nelson launched a new Spanish-language ad that features pictures of Trump and Scott together and says in Spanish "tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are".
"But the President continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, and the problem is that if he didn't acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of SC and the people of North Carolina", Cruz said.
But Trump has continued to boast about the handling of Maria, calling it "an incredible unsung success" as he warned residents of the Carolinas not to take chances with Florence.
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