Puerto Rico hurricane disaster, 450 dead

This 2 October 2017 video is called Why Puerto Rico will be without power for months.

By Rafael Azul:

Estimated death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria rises to 450

20 October 2017

The estimated death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, which slammed into the island on September 20, is far higher than previously stated, according to an investigation by Vox. As many as 450 people have died on the US territory, nearly ten times the official figure of 48.

“We knew from reports on the ground, and investigative journalists who’ve also been looking into this, that this [the official figure] was very likely way too low of a number,” Eliza Barclay, an editor at Vox, told USA Today in a report published yesterday.

On Thursday, only a few days after the initial Vox report on the death toll, US President Donald Trump met with Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosello in Washington. He rated the response of the administration to the catastrophe a “10” out of 10. The comment demonstrated the contempt that the ruling elite has for the masses of workers on Puerto Rico, 80 percent of whom are still without power and will be for months.

Rossello joined in with the congratulations, though he did admit that “a lot still has to be done.”

Trump again made clear that federal assistance will be minimal. The administration is “helping a lot” and it is “costing a lot of money,” he claimed, but “at some point, FEMA has to leave, first responders have to leave and the people have to take over.”

Vox’s estimate of the death toll includes those recorded in the official figure; 36 deaths reported by local news outlets; an NPR report of an additional 49 bodies sent to hospital morgues; and another 50 casualties in one region, reported in the Los Angeles Times. It also took into account reports from the Puerto Rican Center for Investigative Reporting of 69 morgues at full capacity, and a report from San Juan’s El Vocero of another 350 bodies awaiting autopsies at the Institute of Forensic Sciences.

On the one-month anniversary of Hurricane María, it is hard to imagine how things could be worse. The electrical blackout over most of the island is the longest in the history of the US. Forty percent of Puerto Ricans lack potable water, and thousands are forced to use water from wells contaminated with pollutants and sewage.

Earlier this week, the mayor of Canóvanas reported that several people in the city had died of Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection caused by polluted floodwaters. Dozens are dead from the disease throughout the country.

A few days before the scheduled reopening of Puerto Rican public schools, parents are being told to provide extra food and bottled water for their children. Children with conjunctivitis, a symptom of Leptospirosis, have been told to stay home.

Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s education secretary, is calling on authorities to install or repair water fountains for students. The San Juan Star reports that Keleher has denounced government agencies for not giving her reports on the conditions of the schools after the hurricane, and for the fact that virtually all 1,100 Puerto Rican public schools remain littered with debris left over by the hurricane—a major element in the Leptospirosis threat.

“When did the hurricane happen? How many days have passed? When are we resuming classes? At what schools is there still debris?” declared the secretary. Despite the increasing threat of Leptospirosis, schools will reopen Monday. The debris “does not make it impossible to resume classes, but it should not be happening,” said Keleher, “because the debris can bring other problems, such as Leptospirosis.”

Many teachers have had to carry out cleanup operations at schools themselves, due to the lack of coordinated reconstruction.

On Tuesday Eli Díaz, the executive director of the Puerto Rican Water and Sewer Authority, declared that water service would continue to be intermittent until the electric grid, on which much of the water system depends, is fully restored.

Thirty-four percent of households still are still totally without water. Even those that have water report that it often appears grayish-brown coming out of their faucets. Diaz has said that this is due to the clogging of water intakes from debris left behind by the hurricane.

As of last Tuesday, less than eighteen percent of households had electric service. The Puerto Rico blackout has now lasted longer than any blackout on the US mainland.

The hurricane caused an estimated $85 billion in damage in a country that is reeling from recession and faces the relentless demands of Wall Street creditors for more austerity and cuts in infrastructure and social programs to pay back their loans.

11 thoughts on “Puerto Rico hurricane disaster, 450 dead

  1. Day 272 (October 19, 2017)
    In today’s issue: 10/10.

    In a meeting today with Puerto Rico’s governor, Trump was asked, “Between 1 and 10, how would you grade the White House response so far to the hurricane?” . . . Trump gave himself 10/10.
    Currently, 78% of Puerto Rico is without power, 1 million people lack clean drinking water, 3 million people lack electricity, and the death toll is around 450. 450 AMERICAN CITIZENS have died in Puerto Rico, and Trump still gives his response a 10/10.
    Trump is continuing to blame “corruption on the island” for Puerto Rico’s long recovery, and is already talking about ending federal aid to Puerto Rico, even though the situation gets more dire every day.


  2. More than a month after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico, millions of our fellow American citizens are still suffering. Power remains out for much of the island, many don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, and we are hearing horrifying stories of families so desperate that they are getting drinking water from hazardous waste sites.

    The people of Puerto Rico are feeling isolated, fearful of the future and are wondering whether anyone on the mainland cares about them in the midst of this unprecedented crisis.

    In just a few days, I am going to visit Puerto Rico myself to talk with families and listen to their stories. I will also be meeting with governmental leaders. I want the people there, as well as those in the Virgin Islands, to know that they are not alone, they have not been forgotten in their time of need. We will help.

    Please make a $3 donation to these charities helping our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who are suffering in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

    Also, as a U.S. Senator, I want you to know I will demand that all the communities that have been impacted by the recent extreme weather disturbances be treated equally in terms of federal disaster relief, whether they are in Texas, Florida or Puerto Rico. We are one nation and we must stand together.

    The time is long overdue for Congress to understand that these recent disasters, and those that will surely follow, are exacerbated by climate change. How insane is it to pour billions of dollars to rebuild devastated communities while continuing the same policies that led to their destruction? Now is the time to aggressively transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energies like wind and solar. Now is the time to begin the process of preventing future disasters.

    While the rebuilding of Puerto Rico will be a long and difficult process, it will be of enormous comfort for the people living there to know that they are not alone and that we stand with them. Please help the people of the island obtain the food, water, electricity, housing and other basic necessities they need.

    In solidarity,

    Bernie Sanders


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