Saturday, 19 June, 2021


Hurricane Maria: Death toll 50 times higher than first estimate

PR death toll may be higher than reported Hurricane Maria: Death toll 50 times higher than first estimate
Bennie Garza | 29 August, 2018, 08:39

The official death toll on Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to strike the Caribbean island in almost a century, was raised on Tuesday from just 64 to nearly 3,000, based on a study ordered by the governor of the US territory.

Bethzaida Rosado said government and health care officials were not prepared for the storm, and she is still angry her 76-year-old mother died because oxygen tanks were not available on the island after the hurricane.

That's nearly twice the government's previous estimate.

It tracked the number of deaths from when Maria struck the island in September 2017 to mid-February of this year.

Rossello told El Nueva Dia newspaper that the findings, "in my opinion, demonstrate the catastrophe that we always warned Maria had been, and of course the insufficiency of the standard protocols that we had".

Details from the report, which was published by George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, were first obtained by CBS News.

The independent study was requested by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after unofficial investigations into Maria's devastation found the death toll to be much higher than 64, the official government number.

The Caribbean island is home to 3.3 million USA citizens, some 8% of which have since left the island, the study said. Among low-income Puerto Ricans, the risk of death was 45 percent higher.

The White House is responding to a new estimate that dramatically increases the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico.

But US Representative Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, said the study was "only the latest to underscore that the federal response to the hurricanes was disastrously inadequate, and as a result, thousands of our fellow American citizens lost their lives".

The researchers counted the deaths over a longer period because of how long people were without power.

A study by Harvard University earlier this year estimated around 4,600 had died in the three months following the storm.

Dr Goldman added: "That caused a number of issues".

The report was conducted in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health and commissioned by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello. It's fairly striking that you have so many households without electricity for so long.

Researchers attributed undercounting of storm-related deaths to poor communications and the lack of well-established guidelines and training for physicians on how to certify deaths in major disasters.

"The results of our epidemiological study suggest that, tragically, Hurricane Maria led to a large number of excess deaths throughout the island", principal investigator for the report, Carlos Santos-Burgoa, said.

Santos-Burgoa said the high death toll, ranking Maria among the worst natural disasters in USA history, was evidence that "we lack a culture of preparedness".

Last October, Trump visited Puerto Rico.

Cars driving through a flooded road in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, on September 2017 (above) and (below) an aerial view of the Roman Baldorioty de Castro highway six months after the passing of Hurricane Maria.

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