Hurricane Maria Killed At Least 4,600 People In Puerto Rico

by Jerriann Sullivan
image via Mario Tama/Getty Images

Harvard: At least 4,600 people were killed by Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria killed at least 4,600 people in Puerto Rico, which is 70 times the official death toll from the United States government. The updated death toll – which researchers said is a conservative estimate – comes from a Harvard University study released Tuesday.

“Quantifying the effect of natural disasters on society is critical for recovery of public health services and infrastructure. The death toll can be difficult to assess in the aftermath of a major disaster,” the Harvard researchers wrote in the study. “In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused massive infrastructural damage to Puerto Rico, but its effect on mortality remains contentious.” But the team concluded that “the number of excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is more than 70 times the official estimate.”

The official death toll of just 64 people only included the first people who died during the storm. If you’ve ever lived through a hurricane or watch the news at all then you know that natural disasters don’t just claim lives during the storm. Researchers noted that at least a third of those killed in Hurrican Maria died because of interruptions to medical care from power cuts and broken road links. The Harvard researchers said interviews conducted in Puerto Rico suggested a 60% increase in mortality in the three months following the hurricane, the BBC reported.

People are pissed and rightfully so since President Donald Trump downplayed the devastation the storm caused, mocked the Puerto Rican accent, and ignored Puerto Rico’s constant pleas for help following the storm. If you’re thinking, “but it isn’t America’s job to help Puerto Rico after the storm” let me stop you right there. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, which means it is very much our job to make sure the people have everything they need following a natural disaster. Instead, Trump insulted people as they were clinging to life without food, water, electricity or access to health care. Instead of sending medical aid and first responders, Trump took to Twitter to harass the mayor of Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who spent her days wading in sewage water looking for missing people and helping save lives.

“When someone is annoyed by someone claiming lack of drinking water, lack of medicine for the sick, and lack of food for the hungry, that person has problems too severe to be explained in an interview,” she said of Trump’s insane comments following the storm. “What is really nasty is that anyone would turn their back on the Puerto Rican people.” Which is exactly what Trump did. He turned his back on the people who needed help our help the most.

The researchers only estimated deaths that occurred because of the storm through December 31, 2017. But Puerto Rico waited much longer for help from the U.S. so their estimate of 4,600 deaths is pretty conservative. Still, there were able to trace most deaths to the lack of response from Trump. “In our survey, interruption of medical care was the primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months after the hurricane,” the researchers said. Proper medical care can’t happen without access to clean water and electricity. The people of Puerto Rico begged for these things and instead, the president hurled insults and paper towels at them.