Speaker Ryan on Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll: ‘I Have No Reason to Dispute These Numbers’

Melanie Arter | September 13, 2018 | 8:28pm EDT
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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is retiring at the end of his current term. (Photo: Screen capture)

(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he has no reason to dispute a report that said close to 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, despite President Donald Trump’s claim that the Democrats falsely revised the number upward to make the president look bad.

“Casualties don’t make a person look bad. So I have no reason to dispute these numbers. I was in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. It was devastated. This was a horrible storm. I toured the entire island, and it’s an isolated island that lost its infrastructure and its power for a long time,” Ryan said what he thought about the president’s tweet at the weekly House Republican leadership press conference.


“You couldn’t get to people for a long time on the island, because roads were washed out. Power was gone, and the casualties mounted for a long time, so I have no reason to dispute those numbers. Those are just the facts of what happens when a horrible hurricane hits an isolated place like an island,” Ryan said.

Trump tweeted Thursday, “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. 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…”


“.....This 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. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” the president added.

Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello officially raised the death toll from 64 to 2,975 based on the findings of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, which released its study on Aug. 28.

“The GW-led team analyzed death certificates and other mortality data for six months from September 2017 through February 2018. Using a sophisticated mathematical model, the team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns. The researchers also adjusted for age, sex and migration from the island,” the school said in a press release.

“In addition to estimating the excess deaths, the team also sought to identify flaws in mortality surveillance and communications systems and to offer recommendations aimed at helping Puerto Rico – and the mainland U.S. – establish better methods for disaster preparedness and response,” it stated.

“The team found that lack of communication, well established guidelines and lack of training for physicians on how to certify deaths in disasters, resulted in a limited number of deaths being identified as hurricane related. Thus, like other jurisdictions that are part of the U.S., the death certification process can lead to an undercount of deaths related to disasters like Hurricane Maria,” it added.

In a statement issued Thursday, the GW researchers said they “stand by the science underlying our study which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.”

“This study, commissioned by the Government of Puerto Rico, was carried out with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference. Our results show that Hurricane Maria was a very deadly storm, one that affected the entire island but hit the poor and the elderly the hardest. We are confident that the number - 2,975 - is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date,” the statement said.


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