Judge Says FEMA Can End Motel Payments for Hurricane Maria Evacuees

The storm caused $90 billion of damage in Puerto Rico

The storm caused $90 billion of damage in Puerto Rico

In estimating the true death toll of Hurricane Maria, researchers looked at historical data to estimate how many people would have died had the storm not hit the island.

While Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello adopted the lower number as the official count, Rossello's number could rise, the Washington Post reported today. That's nearly twice the government's previous estimate.

The number of deaths from September 2017 to February 2018 was 22 percent higher than during the same period in previous years, Goldman said.

Researchers attributed undercounting of storm-related deaths to poor communications and the lack of well-established guidelines and training for physicians on how to certify deaths in major disasters.

The revised figure was first "revealed" by the Puerto Rico government, according to the final report, on June 13, one day after officials were forced by a judge to release death records that CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo in Puerto Rico had sued to make public.

There are 1,038 families in 27 states and Puerto Rico.

Bethzaida Rosado said government and health care officials were not prepared for the storm, and she is still angry her 76-year-old mother died because oxygen tanks were not available on the island after the hurricane.

"I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico", President Trump responded, adding, "don't forget, their electric plant was dead before the hurricane".

"The lessons learned from this report and subsequent studies will help not just Puerto Rico, but other regions in the USA and around the world that face the ongoing threat of hurricanes and other natural disasters", said Lynn R. Goldman, MD, MS, MPH, Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the GW Milken Institute SPH and a co-author of the report.

By comparison, deaths blamed on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 range from about 1,200 to more than 1,800, most along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. On Aug. 28, he raised the official death toll to 2,975 from 64.

Trump also mentioned that aid to Puerto Rico was made more hard due to it being an island and praised the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Irma knocked out Puerto Rico's entire power grid.

The same thing happened with the death count and other relief efforts, said Blondet. "We used very rigorous methodology".

John Mutter, a professor at Columbia University who researches disaster management, said death certificates are "critical" to determining what is attributable to the hurricane.

The report is entitled, "Ascertainment of the Estimated Excess Mortality from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico".

Rossello pledged to carry out the recommendations, though there are questions about Puerto Rico's ability to do so.

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