Friday, May 24, 2024

The official death toll in Puerto Rico raised to nearly 3,000

After the governor of Puerto Rico raised the island’s official Hurricane Maria death toll to nearly 3,000 people, Puerto Ricans felt a range of emotions ― anger, frustration, grief ― but few were surprised.

“I’m outraged but not surprised,” said Mariana Teresa Hernandez, a Puerto Rican mother who sent her two kids, ages 6 and 7, to live with their father in Chicago after post-storm power outages forced their school to shut down. “I knew from the start that things were really bad.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló increased the official count of those killed by the hurricane and its aftermath from 64 to 2,975 people, following the release of a new report commissioned by the governor and published by researchers at George Washington University. The revised figure would make Maria the deadliest U.S. natural disaster in over 100 years.

Rosselló’s government was repeatedly criticized for sticking to the death toll of 64, even as experts argued it was a vast under-estimation of the actual number of fatalities caused by the storm. In the aftermath of the storm last year, amid an island-wide blackout, Puerto Rico’s health system was shattered, leaving vulnerable patients in need of care ― and functioning medical technology.

Mariluz Núñez, a cancer patient profiled by HuffPost, had to flee the island on a humanitarian flight to Florida after her house lost power, she began overheating and losing weight. Her doctor’s machinery was running on a generator and unable to complete necessary tests. Her friend, also a cancer patient, died two weeks after the hurricane.

Learning of the updated death toll this week, her 21-year-old son Jeancarlo said he was “incensed.”“I feel incensed, but not only because of the new figures of how many people died, but rather for the lack of importance that has been given to the issue,” he said, noting that the government had not made updating the death toll a priority. “It’s a lack of respect for those who died and their families, as well as all Puerto Ricans.”