'Bad politics' Trump lashes out at Puerto Rico 3,000 death toll figure saying it's a Democrat lie to make him look bad

President Donald Trump has rejected the widely accepted death toll. Credit: PA

Donald Trump has claimed the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria has been inflated by Democrats to make him look as "bad as possible" and “3,000 people did not die”.

The US president tweeted his rejection of the widely accepted death toll on on Thursday, as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas.

In response, the Mayor of Puerto Rico's capital San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, tweeted: "Mr Trump you can try and bully us with your tweets BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER."

"You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you!"

Mr Trump visited the US territory in the Caribbean, home to 3.3 million people, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and claims that when he left the death toll was "6 to 18 deaths".

He added: " As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…”

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello raised the US territory’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 after an independent study found the number of people who died in the aftermath had been severely under-counted.

Maria devastated the island in September 2017 and knocked out the entire electricity grid.

Donald Trump met Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello in October 2017. Credit: AP

Researchers from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University said the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster.

The elderly and impoverished were hardest hit by the hurricane.

Governor Rosello said in a statement this week that Maria was "the worst natural disaster in our modern history.

"Our basic infrastructure was devastated, thousands of our people lost their lives and many others still struggle."