U.S. President Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that the death toll from hurricanes that lashed Puerto Rico in 2017 was cooked up by opposition Democrats to hurt him politically.
Mr Trump responded on Twitter to a study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government that estimated the death toll connected to Maria at 2,975.
The study examined mortality in the hurricane and six months afterwards.
Mr Trump said 3,000 people did not die in Maria and Irma, another powerful storm that last year clipped the U.S. territory, whose residents are U.S. citizens.
The president went to Puerto Rico after Maria hit on September 20, 2017 to observe recovery efforts.
“When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.
“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.”
He added that the new, much higher death toll was “done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico”.
He suggested that people who died from old age were added to the storm’s death toll. “Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”
The study was conducted by George Washington University in an attempt to gauge the lingering, indirect effects Maria had on mortality.
It looked at the total number of deaths from September 2017 through February 2018, comparing the number with typical death rates.(dpa/NAN)