Puerto Rico raises hurricane's official death count to 34

2017-10-04 13:55
Authorities in Puerto Rico have rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people living downriver from a dam said to be in danger of collapsing because of flooding from Hurricane Maria. (Hector Retamal, AFP)

Authorities in Puerto Rico have rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people living downriver from a dam said to be in danger of collapsing because of flooding from Hurricane Maria. (Hector Retamal, AFP)

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San Juan - The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has increased to 34 from 16, the US territory's governor said on Tuesday.

Governor Ricardo Rossello also said he believes the hurricane that struck on September 20 with winds over 240km/h caused $90bn in damage across the Caribbean island.

The governor made the announcement at a news conference following US President Donald Trump's short visit to the US territory to assess the storm's impact.

READ: San Juan mayor in hurricane spotlight after Trump tweets

During his stop, Trump congratulated Puerto Ricans for avoiding a high death toll of "a real catastrophe like Katrina".

As many as 1 800 people died in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina breached levees protecting New Orleans.

The governor said the death toll in Puerto Rico included 19 people who died as a direct result of the storm and 15 whose deaths were caused indirectly by the storm, local media reported.

Nearly two weeks after the storm, 95% of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals. Some people have expressed concerns about the effect that extended outages will have on the ill and vulnerable in the tropical heat.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are now more than 10 000 federal officials on the ground on the island, and 45% of customers now have access to drinking water.

Rossello has said he hopes 25% of electricity customers will have power by the end of October.

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