Ryan: No reason to dispute Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico

Ryan: No reason to dispute Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico

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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Feb 8, 2018, (Photo Doug Christian)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), (Photo Doug Christian)

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said he does not dispute the Puerto Rican government’s estimate that nearly 3,000 people were killed in a hurricane that ravaged the island last year.

“I have no reason to dispute these numbers,” Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a news conference on Thursday.

He added: “I was in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. It was devastating. This was a horrible storm.”

Ryan was asked to respond to a series of tweets by President Donald Trump that contended the death toll was much lower.

Last September, Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that at its height produced 175 mph winds, devastated the small Caribbean island.

The official death toll from the storm is estimated at 2,975. The previous death toll was 64. The new number, which was released in late August, was determined by a study Gov. Ricardo Rossello commissioned. Researchers from George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health conducted the analysis.

In comparison, Hurricane Katrina killed at least 1,836 people, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was destroyed as was much of the basic infrastructure. It took 11 months to fully restore power. Thousands of people lost their homes.

The Trump administration has been criticized for its handling of the relief effort.

Trump and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz engaged in a twitter feud earlier this week. The feud began after Trump praised his administration’s handling of the relief effort. Cruz has said the U.S. response was inadequate.

The dispute comes as Hurricane Florence is expected to soon slam the coasts of North and South Carolina.

Ryan said Congress may consider assistance if needed.

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