Puerto Rican Government Admits Hurricane Maria Had a Much Higher Death Toll Than Previously Reported

Illustration for article titled Puerto Rican Government Admits Hurricane Maria Had a Much Higher Death Toll Than Previously Reported
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In an effort to secure additional, and more appropriate aid from Congress, the Puerto Rican government has admitted that Hurricane Maria incurred a much higher death toll than previously reported—though the number is still likely inaccurate. Per a new report issued last month, the government acknowledges 1,427 lives were lost—a steep difference from their initial count of a dozen and the later, grossly inaccurate count of 64.

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The admission was pulled out of the 411-page report on Thursday by the New York Times. Unsurprisingly, the government had no intent of loudly publicizing that detail.

When Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017, it swept the island and led to countless power outages, which in turn led to more deaths due to lack of resources and proper equipment in hospitals. It was believed that the death toll was previously never quite accurately measured or reported by the government, which led to a string of protests fueled by outrage at the scarceness of aid.

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Eleven months later, the Puerto Rican government is pleading for more adequate assistance to accomplish a number of things on their recovery plan checklist which, according to the Times, includes:

...major highway renovations, $15 billion for the Department of Education and $26 billion for the energy grid. The government has asked for $6 billion for repair and replacement of public buildings and $3.9 billion for environmental use, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.

They’re asking for a total of $139 billion.

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DISCUSSION

Is anyone surprised about this? It was a catastrophic storm that knocked power and communication in some areas for months. Hell, 25 customers still don’t have power. The Guardian is reporting a higher number of people — 1,000 households without power as of yesterday.

The United States’ response to the disaster was pathetic. While it’s true that the US was responding to two other hurricanes within the same few weeks (Harvey and Irma), the US is a massive country that should be able to provide aid to its own people.

More than anything, I do feel that race did play a part in this. I mean, some still don’t know or believe that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the US and have the same rights as anyone born in the contiguous US, Hawaii, and Alaska do.

The Root had a great article back in October of last year about Puerto Rico and the US’ continued treatment of the island as second class citizens.