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Puerto Rico Death Toll Rises to 34 After Trump Downplays Hurricane Devastation

Evan Vucci/AP

Hospitals are reporting numbers in the hundreds, despite Governor Ricardo Rossello's update. 

Thirteen days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Donald Trump finally touched down in the powerless U.S. territory, where his appearance felt more like political propaganda than something of any real positive impact. During a press conference with Federal officials and local leaders, the President downplayed Puerto Rico's then reported 16-person death toll, contrasting it to a "real catastrophe like Katrina."

Related | Trump Tosses Paper Towels into a Puerto Rican Crowd Like They're Basketballs

Tuesday evening, right after Trump flew back to the United States, Governor Ricardo Rossello released an updated count, announcing 34 total deaths and the expectation for numbers to continue rising. He said this death toll includes 19 people who died as a direct result of the storm and 15 whose deaths were caused indirectly from slim available resources for survival.

According to AP, 95 percent of the island's electricity customers are still living with power, as well as some hospitals. There's overwhelming concern about the effect these extended outages will have on sick patients and vulnerable Puerto Ricans in the island's tropical heat. This week, temperatures are expected to hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Related | Here's How You Can Support Puerto Rico's LGBTQ Community Center

Omaya Sosa Pascual, a reporter for the Center of Investigative Journalism, has been talking with hospitals across Puerto Rico, who suggest the government's official death tolls are incorrectly skewed. Vox reports that Puerto Rico's public safety secretary estimates 60 confirmed deaths linked to Hurricane Maria and "possibly hundreds more to come."

The government's misinformation is because everything has collapsed, and they're structurally unable to document the dead, Pascual told Vox. "Some of the people who work in the government lost their homes themselves and aren't at work. So they can't do death certificates. The dead can't be documented because of all the logistics and legal aspects of declaring someone dead."

To support Puerto Rico's LGBTQ Community Center, click here.

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