The Trump Administration Can’t Ignore Hurricane Maria’s Real Death Toll

A team of Harvard researchers calls the official Puerto Rican death toll from Hurricane Maria “a substantial underestimate”.†It estimates that the actual death toll is†more than 70 times higher†than the official count.

The official death toll from the 2017 hurricane is 64, but a team of researchers led by scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggest that approximately 5,000 people died as a result of the storm.

Instead of counting the number of dead bodies after the hurricane, the researchers randomly selected households and surveyed the occupants about their experiences. Using this method, they found there were 4,645 “excess deaths,” meaning deaths that would not have occurred if Puerto Rico had not, as NPR put it, ‘been plunged into a prolonged disaster following the devastating storm.”

The researchers also found that interrupted medical care was the “primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months after the hurricane.”

Essentially, these findings demonstrate that not only did considerably more people die following Hurricane Maria, but that they died due to inaction and a lack of support.

Indeed, Puerto Rico did not receive the same assistance as other affected areas. Just a few weeks after the hurricane Donald Trump threatened pull FEMA support, saying that FEMA can’t stay in Puerto Rico “forever.”

Meanwhile, the island was still without power and clean drinking water. Trump had no problem letting FEMA stay in other hurricane-affected areas.

How the Study Worked

The estimates are not exactly as precise as they seem, though. The team randomly selected 3,299 Puerto Rican households to survey during a three-week period in January. Participants reported a total of 38 deaths in those households, which the scientists extrapolated to determine the number of deaths from the total population of 3.4 million.

They then subtracted the number of deaths recorded during the same period the previous year and found that the mortality rate skyrocketed 62 percent in the months after the hurricane.

Based on their calculations, the researchers determined with 95 percent certainty that the death toll was between 800 and 8,500, and they believe that about 5,000 is likely.

The household survey is a widely-accepted method for determining the number of casualties resulting from a natural disaster. The researchers actually believe their results are “likely to be an underestimate” because some households have been entirely lost and were therefore not included in the survey.

Take Action

Regardless of the exact number, the death toll is without a doubt substantially higher than the official count.

A Care2 petition is asking the federal government to acknowledge the actual death toll. Not only is that the decent thing to do, but it also directly affects how much recovery funding is allocated to Puerto Rico.

It is likely, according to this research, that more Americans died due to Hurricane Maria than 9/11, yet one tragedy provoked action and the other did not.

Sign this petition to tell the U.S. Government to acknowledge the real death toll from Hurricane Maria.

If†you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youíll find Care2ís vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

55 comments

Carol C
Carol C7 days ago

This administration's neglect of Puerto Rico is criminal. Petition previously signed.

SEND
Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang10 days ago

Deplorable Donald couldn't care less about the people of Puerto Rico.

SEND
Jen S
Jen S10 days ago

Trump lacks basic humanity; he will ignore, shriek about false news, blame the Democrats, Hilary, immigrants, and those of us narrow-minded people who actually expect him to do the job. This man has the emotional maturity of a very badly raised toddler, and he lives his life in some alternate reality. And Puerto Rico continues to suffer.

SEND
Ann B
Ann B10 days ago

why not??-he ignores everything else that is important????? extremely POOR leader... to people as well as ANIMALS

SEND
Lesa D
Lesa D11 days ago

& yet that is EXACTLY what is happening...

SEND
Muff-Anne York-Haley

Not good.

SEND
Lesa D
Lesa D11 days ago

#43685 petition signed...

SEND
Lesa D
Lesa D11 days ago

thank you Lauren...

SEND
Leo Custer
Leo C11 days ago

Thank you for posting!

SEND
Joan E
Joan E11 days ago

Sure, Trump shouldn't ignore it or lie about how he treated Puerto Rico, but he is fatally flawed, and you can never expect him to do the right thing.

SEND