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His comments came before Trump tweeted Thursday a recent official report putting Puerto Rico's death toll from 2017's Hurricane Maria at almost 3,000, was wrong and "done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible".

"Those are just the facts of what happens when a frightful hurricane hits an isolated place like an island", Ryan said when asked about Trump's tweet. He said the toll was no greater than 18 when he visited the island previous year and "did not go up by much".

The Puerto Rico report found that an estimated 2,975 deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year.

In a latest fit of fury, Trump successfully enraged millions of Americans by claiming the nearly 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by two back-to-back hurricanes were fake news. "If you want people to take your message seriously maybe have higher production quality than a mid-level YouTube star..."

Even a few of Mr Trump's fellow Republicans have spoken out against him.

Eye of the storm: An image taken from aboard the International Space Station shows Hurricane Florence approaching the east coast of the US States.

Ryan said the numbers were "a function of a devastating storm that hit an isolated island", and added, "that's no one's fault".

House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he has "no reason to dispute those numbers".

George Washington University researchers stood by their study, responding to Trump's tweet by saying the study was carried out "with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference". I hate that people that make it a political issue.

"I just think if we can keep politics out of it, help those people who are suffering, I just think that's a better response".

Gidley says Trump directed the administration to provide unprecedented support to the island before, during and after two hurricanes hit Puerto Rico.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of Puerto Rico's capital San Juan and vocal critic of Trump, tweeted her dismay at his latest offensive.

Florence was to be the first major test of FEMA since its response to the Puerto Rico disaster, which was widely criticised. "That is just what happened".

In Florida, which was badly hit by Hurricane Irma past year and which received thousands of Puerto Ricans fleeing the devastation of their homes, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis - who has built his campaign around his adherence to Trump's politics - tried to distance himself from the president's words.

Earlier this week, Trump hailed his administration's response to Maria as "an incredible, unsung success".

He added: "I've been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand". We don't know if it was sufficient, that it was enough, I don't know.

In one Twitter post, Trump accused "Democrats" of fabricating the revised death toll "to make me look as bad as possible". "The loss of any life is tragic".

The FEMA report also mentioned what it called collaboration and communication "shortfalls" with Puerto Rican government officials.


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