“If there was a slightly faster response she would still be with us.”
Hundreds of deaths related to Hurricane Maria may not have been reported in Puerto Rico. This is according to a poll by CNN. After calling more than 100 funeral homes, CNN reports that 499 deaths have occurred either directly from Hurricane Maria or in the aftermath. The official death toll from the government is 55, which is nine times less than what CNN has uncovered. Moreover, CNN reports they were only able to get information from about half of the funeral homes on the island.
The heartbreaking story focused on Pilar Guzman, who survived the hurricane but died from a combination of issues arising from a lack of electricity. Her insulin went bad in the refrigerator and she couldn’t use her sleep apnea machine. Her son believe she should be counted as a hurricane victim.
But for deaths like Guzman’s to be reported as such, doctors need to send bodies to the forensics lab. Only one forensics lab on the entire island is authorized to classify hurricane deaths. With many of the roads still unclear, and the difficulty of every day life since the hurricane, Guzman’s body never made it to the lab. Guzman’s family tried to get an ambulance for her body, but it never came. She and many others may not been counted among the victims of the hurricane.
With much of the electrical grid still out, and scarce food and water, the death toll may climb. A low or inaccurate death toll could effect the amount of aid the island receives.
The implication is that the Puerto Rican and federal government want to paint a pretty picture for the public as a way to show that they’ve got things under control. According to CNN, the Mayor of Cayey, Rolando Ortiz, went on record saying “they just want to have a good story” in order “to make things look positive for them.”
If that continues to be the case, there’s no telling how high the death toll may rise.