Death toll from Hurricane Maria hits 34 in Puerto Rico, governor says

The official death toll in Puerto Rico rose to 34 on Tuesday night, the governor said, almost doubling the previous count.

The announcement comes after President Trump visited the U.S. territory earlier Tuesday to assess the damage after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September.

At a briefing during his visit, Trump touted the previous death toll, saying it was much lower than that of “a real catastrophe like Katrina.” As many as 1,800 people died in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina breached levees protecting New Orleans.

“Sixteen people versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud of all your people.”

Hurricane Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century. Torrential rain and severe flooding knocked out much of what was left of the island’s electricity after Hurricane Irma hit only weeks before.

95 percent of electricity customers are still without power, including some hospitals.

Aside from power, much of the territories’ telecommunications and roads were damaged in the storm, limiting access to basic necessities, such as fresh water and cash.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico said he believes the island accrued more than $90 billion worth of damages due to the storm.

Early response workers faced complications getting to Puerto Rico, but according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) more than 10,000 federal officials are now on the ground and 45 percent of people have access to drinking water. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.