SAN JUAN – The death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has risen from 16 to 34, the island’s governor said on Tuesday.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello told a press conference that 19 people were killed by the hurricane, while 15 others died in related incidents.
Rossello added that the estimated material damage was around $90 billion.
The governor also commented on United States President Donald Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico and said he had highlighted the importance of the recovery process to Trump, as well as the urgent need to fully restore electricity on the island.
According to the latest official figures, only about 6 percent of homes have power.
Rossello refused to comment on “the optics” of Trump’s visit when asked about Trump’s statements earlier on Tuesday.
The president visited a church in Guaynabo, where he distributed supplies to hurricane victims, including rolls of paper towels.
Trump praised Puerto Rican authorities for keeping down the loss of life from Maria.
“You can be very proud of your people and all of our people working together,” the president said on his first visit to Puerto Rico since Maria struck on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 hurricane that knocked out power, water and telecommunications service.
Some 12,000 civilian federal workers and a much smaller number of US military personnel are in Puerto Rico to deliver aid and assist with relief efforts, though many have criticized Washington for its delayed response to the devastation.
One of those critics has been San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, whose complaints prompted Trump to attack her on Twitter for her “poor leadership.”
Even so, the president and the mayor shook hands during Tuesday’s visit, when Trump again raised the issue of what Puerto Rico’s recovery will cost and how to pay for it.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said. “Because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, but that’s fine. We have saved a lot of lives – every death is a horror.”
The storm has added greatly to the woes of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents, who have endured a decade-long recession made worse by austerity policies imposed to deal with the island’s $72 billion in debt.