Thousands more died from Hurricane Maria than official death toll
Thousands more died from Hurricane Maria than official death toll
Shocking New Study Finds Puerto Rican Government Has Underreported Hurricane Maria Death Toll By Thousands
02 June, 2018, 21:09
This morning's reminder comes in the form of a New England Journal of Medicine article by Nishant Kishore and colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The news comes just days before the start of the 2018 hurricane season.
Understanding the true number of deaths due to Hurricane Maria is important for a number of reasons.
The Washington Post blasted President Donald Trump's response to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico after a new report estimated that at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria's impact on the island. Respondents were also asked about deaths within a 5-minute walking distance of their homes.
The official death count from Hurricane Maria is 64, a figure the study characterizes as "a substantial underestimate". "The Trump administration failed the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria and it still isn't doing enough to help people recover".
Yes, it's natural to measure nature's horrific power through the immediacy of a death toll-the way we do airplane crashes and the like. Researchers concluded the final death count could be as high as 8,500.
The Harvard study states that its estimate of over 4,600 deaths is probably conservative.
Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who himself is a scientist, seemed blindsided by the Harvard study. As the world knows, the magnitude of this tragic disaster caused by Hurricane Maria resulted in many fatalities. "We have always expected the number to be higher", said Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Carlos Mercader in a statement.
In hospitals, services suffered from lack of electricity and an exodus of physicians from the island left a shortage of medical staff to treat the population. It also notes that Puerto Rican officials have refused to make public basic mortality statistics. The question for USA authorities about Puerto Rico, an American territory, is how many of those deaths could have been prevented with a better emergency response? Shortly after the storm, CNN conducted a survey by phone of funeral homes and reported 499 hurricane-related deaths. More than 18 inches of rain fell in less than a day, flooding Lake Okeechobee.
During the storm itself, residents might be hit by flying debris or swept away in flash floods.
Tulane University Professor Mark VanLandingham said, "It's a very hard task to figure out how many people died from a event like this and you have a lot of political interest people who are in charge will want to try and drive those numbers down to indicate they didn't do if not a good job not a awful job of it". There is no evidence of such, but that many more lives potentially could have been lost locally in the record-setting storm seems obvious.
Natalio Rodriguez Lebron, 77, for example, died in Maunabo, Puerto Rico, in January.
If a member of the family was reported lacking however not recognized to be deceased, researchers counted them as alive.
To come up with a more realistic number, they turned to a community-based survey methodology and grouped the island's 900 barrios into eight categories based on their location and remoteness.
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