A study released by Harvard in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that at least 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, a death toll 70 times higher than the official count.
UPDATED 08/10/18 11:01 AM PST: The Puerto Rican government has admitted to a higher death toll than previously recorded, though it has yet to acknowledge the numbers put forth by the Harvard study. Read more →
PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you have thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we have spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives. If you look at the—every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous—hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody has seen anything like this. And what is your death count as of this moment?Seventeen?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLÓ: Sixteen certified.
PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people—all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.
That was how the current president of the United States of America addressed the storm-battered residents of the island of Puerto Rico some two weeks after the devastating Hurricane Maria.
Not only did the U.S. fail dramatically in its responsibility to provide aid to Puerto Rico, not only were there dozens of unacceptable scandals surrounding the relief effort, and not only did the president throw paper towels at survivors in a gross act of blatant disrespect, but he and the federal government have, since that day, consistently denied the overwhelming evidence that pointed towards skyrocketing fatalities in the absence of aid and support.
To this day, the official death toll remains at just 64.
The study, released Tuesday, takes into account all deaths as a result of the storm, including both direct deaths — those killed by debris or drowned, for example — as well as indirect deaths from the prolonged absence of healthcare, electricity, food, and clean water.
At 4,645 deaths, Hurricane Maria would be the second deadliest hurricane in the country’s history, surpassed only by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 which resulted in as many as 12,000 fatalities.
And yes, that includes Hurricane Katrina, which the president repeatedly compared Maria to.
“In our survey, interruption of medical care was the primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months after the hurricane, a finding consistent with the widely reported disruption of health systems….Growing numbers of persons have chronic diseases and use sophisticated pharmaceutical and mechanical support that is dependent on electricity. Chronically ill patients are particularly vulnerable to disruptions in basic utilities, which highlights the need for these patients, their communities, and their providers to have contingency plans during and after disasters.” — Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
So far, the president has not responded to the study, nor has he issued an apology for the unbelievably rude, inconsiderate, and condescending comments he’s made to the Puerto Rican people at nearly every turn throughout this process.
It should be noted that the study only encompasses the time period immediately following the hurricane through the end of December 2017.
Many different areas of the island were still without power through February 2018, meaning that the death toll could in fact be much higher.
The U.S. government has not released any data on the current situation on the island since December, and Puerto Ricans are suing the federal government for the mortality data that even the Harvard researchers were not able to access.
To read Iron Triangle Press’ most recent coverage of the situation in Puerto Rico, click here.
Click here to view the Harvard study, “Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.”