Things That Matter

Over 1 Year Ago, Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Killed Nearly 3,000 People (Instead Of The 64 People Originally Reported)

We’re coming up on almost a year since Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. The governor of Puerto Rico recently officially raised the death toll from 64 to 2,975. It took nearly a year for the island to get full power restored and a lot of people are far from recovered.

Just this week, some shocking news hit the airwaves.

The government of Puerto Rico has raised the death toll to almost 3,000 people.

CREDIT: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

The number is representative of the people who died after the storm passed but still because of the storm. The entire island was out of power for months leaving many with necessary things to live. However, there is still a lot of disputes on the official death toll.

The official death toll by the federal government is 64.

CREDIT: @NYDailyNews / Twitter

CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo sued the Puerto Rican government to release the death records, and the judge forced the government’s hand.

Puerto Rico is nowhere near recovered.

CREDIT: @ajplus / Twitter

Just last week (10 months after the hurricane), power to most residents was finally restored. Highways haven’t been restored, the energy grid isn’t complete and the Puerto Rican government is requesting $139 billion in recovery funds. There is still a lot of work to do.

Meanwhile, Trump is funneling our tax money into a space military.

CREDIT: @Weinsteinlaw / Twitter

Puerto Rico still needs help recovering. Some would think that it is more important to help Puerto Rico rebuild than to create a space force.

People are screaming into the Twitter-verse.

CREDIT: @LynxSavage / Twitter

We don’t expect a reasonable response because there is no reason. It’s inexcusable to scapegoat people looking for safe harbor and call them aliens while funneling our money into a fake bid for space.

What about our problems here on Earth?

CREDIT: @tanzinavega / Twitter

Hurricane Maria is the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. The structural damage and the staggering death toll need to be addressed with all the available and necessary resources.

Thankfully, Senators are speaking out with this new information.

CREDIT: @SENWARREN / Twitter

When Trump visited Puerto Rico, he tossed paper towels out into the crowd. And when he tweeted about relief efforts, it was to say that they were unappreciated (rather than expected of the government).

People are telling Trump where he can shove his paper towels.

CREDIT: @GlennC1 / Twitter

Puerto Rican recovery efforts still matter, especially with another hurricane season upon us, making the island vulnerable to more natural disaster hits. Let’s be honest: Puerto Rico has not received proportional relief efforts.

There are some studies and people that say that closer to 5,000 people died because of Hurricane Maria.

CREDIT: @andreagonram / Twitter

Here a major reason that the U.S. federal government has been reluctant to provide meaningful aid:

  • Puerto Rico is effectively a colony, forced to pay taxes, but not receive aid in turn.

Latino celebrities have done more to help Puerto Rico than the U.S. government.

CREDIT: @ColoringApril @Jenniffer2012 / Twitter
Without any fanfare, Pitbull was one of the first celebrities to swiftly donate his private plane to assist in bringing in clean water, food, and medical supplies to the devastated island in the aftermath. He even brought cancer patients to the U.S. to receive necessary treatments.

Since then, Mr. Worldwide has said he sees President Trump’s “true colors.”

CREDIT: @pitbull / Twitter

In an interview with CNN, Pitbull said, “his true colors are real simple. It’s about money, it’s about power, and when you’re raised that way, it goes to show you what your true priorities are.”

Jennifer Lopez has been one of the biggest champions of Puerto Rico.

CREDIT: @jlo / Instagram

Lopez posted an emotional video on her Instagram during a time when she still hadn’t heard back from her family back home. She urged her over 10 million video viewers to donate to the Puerto Rican’s First Lady’s cause: Unidos por Puerto Rico.

J.Lo and Marc Anthony joined forces to create their own initiative: Somos Una Voz.

CREDIT: @MarcAnthonyUSA / Twitter

The organization aims to bring together sports and entertainment celebrities to use their platforms and talents to raise money for recovery efforts.

Daddy Yankee is one of many other artists who joined the coalition.

CREDIT: @PopCrave / Twitter

The funds have gone to help rebuild homes lost during the storm through Habitat for Humanity, distributing food and water during the months after that PR went without, and so much more.

Puerto Rican icon Ricky Martin went in on the ground to help residents.

CREDIT: @ricky_martin / Twitter

He went to small beach towns like Loiza, which was without food, water or even a telephone line to communicate. Martin came in with trucks of water bought by the millions of dollars he raised for relief efforts.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has never stopped tweeting about his home island.

CREDIT: @lin_manuel / Instagram

Six months after the storm, eight months after the storm, just last week, Miranda refuses to let Puerto Rico slip from the news cycles while people are still suffering and injustice continues.

Luis Fonsi joined John Leguizamo in a PSA.

CREDIT: @FonsiDominicana / Twitter

While Fonsi tried to continue with his tour, he couldn’t without making a PSA to raise awareness. He even told TIME, “We’re all trying to be professional because, as they say, the show must go on. [But] it’s obvious we’re all heavy-hearted and concerned.”

Gina Rodriguez is a proud Puerto Rican and has used her platform for good.

CREDIT: @hereisgina / Twitter

Both to raise funds but also raise expectations and destroy stereotypes that people have about Puerto Ricans.

Literally, people don’t understand how more hasn’t been made of the issues.

CREDIT: @TomNamako / Twitter

The people of Puerto Rico are Americans. They deserve better. They deserve to be treated like all the other Americans who are facing a long recovery.

So what can you do to help?

CREDIT: @AJENews / Twitter

Keep donating and keep talking about Puerto Rico. The most important thing you can do is keep Puerto Rico in the mainstream consciousness so we can make some real change. Fight with your words and plans, not verbal attacks.


READ: J.Lo And A.Rod Share Moments From Their Trip To Puerto Rico And Announce A Donation Of 2 Million Dollars

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A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

Things That Matter

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

@IGD_News / Twitter

Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.

A Girl In Puerto Rico Died From An Illness Because The Only Hospital In Her Area Was Destroyed During Hurricane Maria

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A Girl In Puerto Rico Died From An Illness Because The Only Hospital In Her Area Was Destroyed During Hurricane Maria

@ValericaCollazo / Twitter

There is sad news out of Vieques, Puerto Rico where a young teenage girl has passed away after suffering flu-like symptoms. Jaideliz Moreno Ventura, 13, died on Sunday after her condition worsened she began convulsing. Now, her family is pointing the blame on the island’s inadequate medical facilities. 

Vieques, a Caribbean island off of Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, hasn’t had a working hospital in over two years. That’s because its old primary hospital, Family Health Center Susana Centeno, was closed due to damage from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island more than two years ago.

What started out as just flu-like symptoms turned into a tragedy within the span of three days. 

It all started last Friday when Jaideliz told family members that she was experiencing flu-like symptoms. According to local media, her uncle, Carlos “Prieto” Ventura, said that she had “a fever, a sore throat, and a headache.” She was then taken to a hospital in Puerto Rico for a checkup and to be tested for influenza. While the results of the test came back negative and she returned back home to Vieques, things got worse over the weekend. 

By Sunday, Jaideliz’s symptoms only got worse as she began to have spasms and severe head pain. After the family took notice of her increasingly worse conditions, she was taken to the only health facility on the island, the Center for Diagnostics and Treatment, which was due to Hurricane Maria destroying its old hospital. According to NBC News, the clinic lacked proper medical equipment to help Jaideliz. Her cousin, José Ventura, told the news outlet that the facility didn’t have a working mechanical ventilator for oxygen, only an older manual air pump. 

By 11:30 a.m. local time Jaideliz was pronounced dead as she was being transported to Puerto Rico on an air ambulance. 

For those living on Vieques, receiving medical attention isn’t easy. Many have to take a boat to receive medical attention in Puerto Rico where trip times vary from 30 minutes to multiple hours. 

There is growing anger and blame about the teen’s death with many people pointing blame at the inadequate assistance that Puerto Rico and nearby islands have received since Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. The situation in Vieques is a perfect example of that as residents lack nearby health services and aid. 

“If we had more resources, she would be with us right now,” her cousin told NBC News. “They have forgotten about us.”

Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary, Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, says that he has ordered an immediate investigation into the death of Jaideliz and which circumstances could have caused this tragedy. Back in December, Democratic lawmakers requested an investigation into why FEMA hadn’t done anything to help rebuild Vieques’ only hospital. But lawmakers alerted FEMA about this issue in May but there was never any response. 

“In Puerto Rico, we talk a lot about how we are treated as second class citizens, but the people of Vieques and Culebra [another island off the coast of Puerto Rico] are being treated as third-class citizens,” Edgardo Román Espada, president of Puerto Rico’s Bar Association, told NBC News last May. 

Jaideliz’s family is using this tragedy as a wakeup call for health officials to do something about the deteriorating situation on the island. They are hoping for more medical supplies and equipment so this situation doesn’t happen again.

On Wednesday, a vigil was held in the girl’s honor as her family called for help. They say that they “don’t want Jai’s death to be in vain” and made the plea for more medical assistance. Her mother says the island needs to “have a dignified hospital, with medical equipment and supplies —so that no other mother will have to go through what I am dealing with now.” 

“Up to a point, the people feel abandoned, that politicians come and go, and there are no bonds of affection and our feelings are obvious. We live this problem and that is why our pain here. All this adds more regret and anguish to our people,” her uncle told local media. “This is what you live every moment on our island. We need more sensitivity. ”

This tragedy followed what has already been a tough start of the year for Puerto Rico as a 6.4 magnitude quake shook the island back on Jan.7, killing at least one person, destroying homes and leaving most utility customers in the dark. There has been an estimated $110 million in damages caused by the quake. 

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