Months after the catastrophic Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the official death remained at 65 people—a number that people roundly criticized for being far too low considering the damage done on the island and the slow recovery process. Now Governor Ricardo Rossello has ordered a review of every death on the island after the hurricane because so many of them have officially been labeled as deaths by natural causes, according to reports.
Several organizations have come out with guesstimations at what the real death toll might be. A plausible reason for the miscategorization of so many deaths may be because the deaths are technically natural deaths, but they happened because of the hurricane. For example, people who needed oxygen tanks, dialysis or some other regular, critical treatment couldn’t get it because of the infrastructure and died as a result.
“This is about more than numbers, these are lives: real people, leaving behind loved ones and families,” Rosselló said in a statement, recognizing that the government’s official count could be incorrect—possibly by a thousand people, according to outside reviews. “Every life is more than a number, and every death must have a name and vital information attached to it, as well as an accurate accounting of the facts related to their passing.”
According to The New York Times, in the review process, if a person’s death was labeled a death by heart attack, they will conduct interviews to determine if the heart attack was because of hurricane-induced stress or if that person couldn’t reach medical help because of debris in the roads or a closed hospital because of the hurricane.
In almost three months since the hurricane made landfall, only 70 percent of the island has had its power restored. The American citizens of Puerto Rico are still in recovery and still need our help.