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President Donald Trump called the federal government's response past year to hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico an "incredible unsung success" despite a study released last month that put the death toll at almost 3,000 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to deny a report that 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

In a second tweet, Trump said the 2,975 death toll was a plot by Democrats to make him look bad. But Lynn Goldman, dean of the university's Milken Institute of Public Health, which ran the study, admitted, "among all the deaths that occurred, which of them were related to Maria, which of them would not have occurred if it hadn't been for the storm?"

Rossello, seized on Trump's use of the word "successful" and said in a statement at the time: "No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called "successful" because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states".

The Republican president suggested the hurricane death toll was artificially inflated by adding those who passed away from natural causes such as old age.

"The job that FEMA, and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous", Trump added.

Hurricane Florence is the first major test of the Federal Emergency Management Agency since its much-criticized response to Maria, which caused devastation when it struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm a year ago.

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Mr Trump's tweets came as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coast and is expected to cause risky flooding and tornadoes. Abby Huntsman, though, was willing to attribute Trump's remarks to his pattern of exaggeration - lamenting how politicized Puerto Rico's recovery has become.

"There are huge inequalities in Puerto Rico that were brought up by the hurricane", said Carlos Santos-Burgoa, one of the principal investigators of the study.

Millions have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the storm rages closer to the mainland.

The official death count increased months after the storm because the government of Puerto Rico originally did not acknowledge counts from news outlets investigating the impact of the storm.

Trump paints another picture of his team's response to the tragedy that occurred after Hurricane Maria.

In two tweets this morning, with Hurricane Florence barreling toward the eastern coast, Trump not only disputed the revised death toll of 2,975 confirmed by a government study, but suggested that everything on the island was just fine when he visited immediately after the storm.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz was a particularly aggressive critic of Trump in the days and weeks following the hurricane; her response to Trump's tweet today was no different.