- Aug 21, 2003
As hurricane season begins this week, experts are still trying to count the number of deaths caused by last year’s devastating Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The latest estimate: roughly 4,600, many of them from delayed medical care.
Residents of Puerto Rico died at a significantly higher rate during the three months following the hurricane than they did in the previous year, according to the results of a new study by a group of independent researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions.
The researchers say their estimate, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, remains imprecise, with more definitive studies still to come. But the findings, which used methods that have not been previously applied to this disaster, are important amid widespread concerns that the government’s tally of the dead, 64, was a dramatic undercount.
The surveyors used off-road vehicles because of the continuing threat of landslides in mountain areas. In part of Culebra, a small island off the main island of Puerto Rico, they arrived planning to interview 35 households. Only one person remained. “It was a bathroom and half a room,” said Domingo J. Marqués, an associate professor of psychology at Albizu University San Juan, who helped conduct the study with his students and who himself lacked power and running water for months after the hurricane. “All the other houses were gone.”
Those conditions, he said, made clearer why the government’s official death count was incomplete. “Even if they were really doing a good job, it was really hard unless you did something like we did — go talk to people on the ground,” he said. People, he added, “died alone in their houses. Nobody went there. Some of them were covered by a landslide, and months after they’ve not recovered the bodies.”
https://nyti.ms/2GYTOBSThe newly released study, by contrast, was conducted for about $50,000 without the participation of the territory’s government, which the researchers said refused to provide data to them. Government officials did not respond to several New York Times requests for comment on the research.
Seems obvious that the government knows MANY more people than the official count died but have decided to do everything possible to suppress such conclusions. And these are American citizens.