'No doubt' almost 3,000 died due to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico governor says

'No doubt' almost 3,000 died due to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico governor says
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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló expressed confidence on Thursday in the process that led government officials to declare nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria last year, even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE has claimed without evidence that the number is inaccurate.

Asked on CNN if there were any doubts that 3,000 people died in the storm, Rosselló said "no, there isn't."

"Once the aftermath of the storm came over here, we had a very unsatisfying protocol to get to the death toll number," he said. "Once we realized that, we looked for an independent study. George Washington stepped in, and they took their time."

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The government-commissioned George Washington University report found that 2,975 people died on the island in the six months that followed Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rican officials adopted that finding as the official death toll, raising it from the previous tally of 64.

"I evaluated everything they did, and it is my view it was a very well done estimate of the death toll numbers, Rosselló, who has a PhD in biomedical engineering, said Thursday.

"Of course, at this juncture we can talk about estimates, but certainly it's in the ballpark, and that’s why I have taken it upon myself to take that number … as the official toll in Puerto Rico," he added.

Trump has insisted without evidence that Democrats spiked the death toll in Puerto Rico in order to make him look "as bad as possible." He continued to assert that the study was inaccurate even as Puerto Rican officials rebuked him.

George Washington University stood by its findings, saying it's confident that 2,975 is "the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date."

The Trump administration faced significant criticism for its response to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Maria, which made landfall one year ago on Thursday. Local officials and Democrats argued that the federal government was slow to respond, delaying the rebuilding process and leading to additional deaths.

Trump has remained unflinchingly positive about his administration's efforts, calling it an "incredible, unsung success."