STATEMENT: CAP’s Enrique Fernández-Toledo Laments Latest Hurricane Maria Death Count, Calls on Congress to Provide Adequate Resources
Washington, D.C. — Enrique Fernández-Toledo, director of Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response to a study published today by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, which reveals that Hurricane Maria caused an estimated 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico:
Today’s study is a painful reminder of the unacceptable high human cost caused by the Trump administration’s inappropriate preparation to safeguard the lives of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and, more importantly, its disregard for the suffering they endured in the storm’s aftermath.
It is also a scathing rebuke of the government of Puerto Rico, Governor Rosselló, and his secretary of public safety for their insistence on an official death count of 64 for many months following Hurricane Maria. They only changed the official count close to one full year later, despite mounting anecdotal evidence from every corner of the island of Puerto Rico and from initial informed estimates.
According to this serious study, the actual death toll is more than 46 times that of the official count, placing it among the highest death counts caused by an Atlantic hurricane in the last 100 years.
Those that have been to the island understand that the true extent of suffering in Puerto Rico has been severely diminished and undercounted. It is clear that the people of Puerto Rico were victims of institutionalized discrimination and disparate treatment by elected officials and federal administrators, which has resulted in thousands of inexcusable deaths—particularly in low-income areas. President Donald Trump should eat his words, having said that local officials should feel “very proud” that they haven’t lost hundreds of lives like in “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina. As a Puerto Rican, I am hurt by the pain of the people and outraged by the neglect, wholly inexcusable response, and lack of transparency from the federal government and its agencies.
The results of this study strengthen our resolve and determination to call on Congress and the federal government to help provide Puerto Rico with the adequate resources to properly rebuild the island and to prevent any such senseless loss of lives in the future.
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