Dem senators write DHS calling for accurate hurricane death counts

Dem senators write DHS calling for accurate hurricane death counts
© Greg Nash

Top Democratic senators are calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to accurately provide death counts in Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

“We urge you to provide all necessary resources to confirm that storm-related deaths are being counted correctly," the senators wrote in the letter to DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.

The senators argued for an accurate death toll, saying the current count at 48 does not take into account what media reports say are about 450 more people who have died since the hurricane as well as 69 people who have been reported missing.

“The need for an accurate death toll is especially important because President Trump seems to be using the number of fatalities to determine the quality of the disaster response,” their letter continued.

“Given President Trump’s recent threat to withdraw relief workers from Puerto Rico, it is crucial that he and the public not receive erroneously low fatality totals,” the senators wrote. 

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Trump last week warned that this administration's response to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico cannot last "forever."

"We cannot keep [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!" Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

He added that the island territory's existing debt and infrastructure issues compounded problems.

The letter from Democrats echoed the calls that Democratic House Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent to DHS last week.

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