A recent study reveals that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.
The researchers at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health adjusted for various factors, including the some 241,000 residents who were displaced from the island. In the end, the number of deaths that could be directly or indirectly attributed to Hurricane Maria was reported at an estimated 2,975 - a number that stands in stark contrast to the previously reported 64.
Puerto Rico has been making a slow recovery since the Category 4 hurricane made landfall last September, knocking down power lines and sending the island into the largest blackout in American history. The Army Corps of Engineers stopped working to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid in May, passing the remaining work to the island’s bankrupt public utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Meanwhile, reports have continued to come in on the dire mental state of residents residing on the island. Suicide rates have spiked and local suicide prevention hotlines are still receiving an influx of calls.
President Trump has been critical of the island and of San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been vocal about the government’s slow response to provide adequate aid to Puerto Rico.
“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.” Trump tweeted just weeks after Maria devastated the island. “They want everything to be done for them …”
When Trump visited the island a few weeks later, he told Puerto Rican officials that they should be pleased with how few people died in the hurricane. He compared the then death count of sixteen to that of Katrina, which he described as a “real catastrophe.” “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud,” he said. Later in the day, he was photographed throwing paper towel rolls into a crowd that had gathered to see him, a move that disturbed many.
“The Trump administration killed the Puerto Ricans with his neglect,” Carmen Yulín Cruz said in an interview with CNN following the release of the study. “The Trump administration led us to believe that they were helping when they weren’t up to par, and they didn’t allow other countries to help us.”
According to the lead investigator, the second phase of the study will focus on the causes of the deaths.
Reuters reporting contributed to this story.