The number of deaths in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria and its aftermath is around 4,645, according to a Harvard study released Tuesday. This number is in stark contrast to the official report stating the total death toll was only 64.
The writers of the study hope that the results will be an eye opener for U.S. politicians on how poorly managed this crisis in Puerto Rico was and the ongoing problems the Island still faces.
“These numbers will serve as an important independent comparison to official statistics from death-registry data, which are currently being reevaluated, and underscore the inattention of the U.S. government to the frail infrastructure of Puerto Rico,” the study says.
“We should be outraged because we should have reliable numbers from the US Government, but I’ve kind of given up on that,” National security expert Juliette Kayyem told Boston Public Radio Wednesday. “We failed the Puerto Ricans and the response was horrible.”
The study and Kayyem emphasized how necessary learning about the death toll numbers and causes are to help formulate preventative measures for future hurricane disasters. “How people died matters so that the next hurricane... you actually do better next time. That’s how you build resilient systems stronger. The failure to even recognize that these deaths occurred means that we won’t learn from it,” Kayyem said.
National security expert Juliette Kayyem is the host of the SCIF podcast, CEO of ZEMCAR and a contributor to CNN and WGBH. To listen to her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.