Democrats expressed outrage at President Donald Trump on Tuesday and Wednesday as they reacted to a new Harvard study that estimates at least 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.
That figure is 73 times greater than the government’s most recently reported death toll: 64.
The White House and Republicans in the Senate and House remained quiet Tuesday and into Wednesday on the Harvard study’s reported death toll, originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
As dozens of Democrats tweeted and issued statements about the administration’s inadequate emergency response to the hurricane that devastated the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands last September, no House or Senate Republican has tweeted about Puerto Rico since the news broke.
“The new mortality study published today on Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is shocking and profoundly disturbing,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement Tuesday. “Eight months after the Trump Administration’s stunningly weak response, far too many of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico lack power, adequate shelter and other basic necessities.”
Democratic senators accused the Trump administration of turning a “blind eye” to Puerto Ricans as their island continues to struggle with a scarcity of clean water and a power grid that engineers have struggled to revive from ruin.
Sen. Robert Menendez indicated the Trump administration could have prevented scores of deaths if it had been better prepared and more willing to provide federal assistance during the fallout from the storm.
“When’s the last time we heard ‘nearly 5,000 Americans are dead?’” the New Jersey Democrat tweeted Tuesday. “How many lives could have been saved if the Trump Admin acted decisively w/ every available resource instead of nickel and diming PR for disaster funding?”
4,645 is OVER 70 TIMES MORE than 64
When’s the last time we heard “nearly 5,000 Americans are dead”?
How many lives could have been saved if the Trump Admin acted decisively w/ every available resource instead of nickel & diming PR for disaster funding? https://t.co/sYX5y6nESd pic.twitter.com/bpCA7NNSIC
— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) May 29, 2018
Official government death counts for natural disasters are significant for a number of reasons. Family members of people who die in a natural disaster are eligible for government assistance to help pay for their loved one’s funeral, for example.
Rep. Barbara Lee of California drew parallels between the federal response to Maria and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated southern Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005.
Countless lives could have been saved, if not for the negligence & mismanagement by the White House during this catastrophic storm. Just like after Katrina, it was the most vulnerable — the sick and elderly — who suffered from @FEMA’s missteps. https://t.co/BClppUnYwU
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló appeared to somberly embrace the Harvard study’s results at a press conference Tuesday.
“We welcome all studies,” Rosselló said. “We want the real number to come out. We had a protocol that really was subpar, and we recognize it.”
Watch: Puerto Rican-Born Lawmaker Blasts Trump’s Puerto Rico Tweets