Ricardo Rosselló said on Twitter he would explain to the president how the island had used a study into excess deaths carried out by experts from George Washington University to raise the official death toll from 64 to 2,975. This week, Mr Trump denied so many people had died, and claimed the number had been inflated by Democrats to make him “look as bad as possible” amid criticism of the federal response.
“Mr President – I’d very much be willing to walk you through the scientific process of the study and how @Gwtweets arrived at the excess mortality number estimate. There is no reason to underscore the tragedy we have suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Mr Rosselló tweeted.
Mr. President—— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) September 15, 2018
I’d very much be willing to walk you through the scientific process of the study and how @Gwtweets arrived at the excess mortality number estimate. There is no reason to underscore the tragedy we have suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. 1/2 https://t.co/HGENQOu6fQ
He added: “In the meantime, I hope you consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the US Citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones. It would certainly be an act of respect and empathy.”
Mr Rosselló, a member of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party who was sworn in as governor in January 2017, said last month he was using the figure reached by the university’s Milken Institute School of Public Health as the new death toll.
In the meantime, I hope you consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the US Citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones. It would certainly be an act of respect and empathy. 2/2— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) September 15, 2018
“Even though it’s an estimate....we are putting an official number to the death toll. We will take the 2,975 number as the official estimate for the excess deaths as a product of the hurricane,” Mr Rosselló said at a press conference.
The study, carried out after the island was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria, and to a much lesser extent Hurricane Irma, reached the extrapolation of 2,975 by assessing how much “excess mortality” there was following Maria, a category 5 hurricane, which devastated the island’s infrastructure and resources.
The researchers assessed typical mortality rates from 2010 to 2017, then compared that figure to the number of deaths in the six months after Maria.
“Overall, we estimate that 40 per cent of municipalities experienced significantly higher mortality in the study period than in the comparable period of the previous two years,” it said. It also found that risk of death was 45 per cent higher for “populations living in low socioeconomic development municipalities” and men 65 years or older, The Hill reported.
This week, while briefing reporters about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) preparations for Hurricane Florence, which is currently dumping huge amounts of water over the Carolinas, the president said his administration’s response to the situation in Puerto Rico had been an “unsung success” – a statement that triggered incredulity and anger among many.
It was only in August that electricity was finally resorted to all of the Puerto Rico, a task that took almost a year.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has frequently clashed with Mr Trump, said on Twitter the president was “delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality”.
She added: “This is NOT about politics this was always about SAVING LIVES.”
Meanwhile, the Milken Institute School of Public Health issued its own statement saying “we stand by the science underlying our study which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria”.