The official death toll from the Hurricane Maria that ripped through Puerto Rico has increased to 34 from 16, the US territory’s governor said on Tuesday, October 3, 2017.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló made the announcement at a news conference following Donald Trump’s short visit to assess the storm’s impact.
The governor also said he believed the hurricane that struck on 20 September with winds over 150mph caused $90bn in damage across the Caribbean island.
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, The Guardian reports.
“It’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done,” Trump told local officials, adding that “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.
Thirteen days ago, Hurricane Maria trashed Puerto Rico, demolishing its already weak power, communications, and transportation infrastructure.
The storm quickly gave way to a humanitarian crisis, with many of Puerto Rico’s residents struggling to access food, water, and fuel to run generators and cars.
Until Tuesday evening, when Governor Rossello updated it to 34, the official death count was stuck at 16.