Hurricane death toll in Puerto Rico more than doubles to 34, governor says

  04 October 2017    Read: 806
Hurricane death toll in Puerto Rico more than doubles to 34, governor says

The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has increased to 34 from 16, the US territory’s governor said Tuesday.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló also said he believes the hurricane that struck on 20 September with winds over 150 mph caused $90bn in damage across the Caribbean island.

The governor made the announcement at a news conference following Donald Trump’s short visit to assess the storm’s impact.

During his stop, Trump congratulated Puerto Ricans for avoiding a high death toll of “a real catastrophe like Katrina”. As many as 1,800 people died in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina breached levees protecting New Orleans. The president heaped praise on his administration’s response to the storm.

But he also appeared to complain about the cost of the recovery effort.

Trump told local officials: “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.

“But that’s fine because we’ve saved a lot of lives.”

Later, the governor said the death toll in Puerto Rico included 19 people who died as a direct result of the storm and 15 whose deaths were caused indirectly by the storm, local media reported.

Last week a local investigative journalism project calculated that the real total was likely to be dozens or hundreds higher.

Nearly two weeks after the storm, 95% of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals. Some people have expressed concerns about the effect that extended outages will have on the ill and vulnerable in the tropical heat.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are now more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground on the island, and 45% of customers now have access to drinking water. Rosselló has said he hopes 25% of electricity customers will have power by the end of October.

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