American researchers who calculated that the Hurricane Maria left almost 3,000 dead in Puerto Rico, now they are investigating the deaths that could be overlooked and would be linked to the damage to infrastructure caused by the hurricane that made landfall in Puerto Rico as category 4.
The Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University received a nearly $ 1 million contract from the National Institute of Patterns and Technology to conduct the research. According to university officials, the project tries to improve the death certification process and construction standards in the face of future storms in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico and other entities.
It also attempts to identify all deaths linked directly or indirectly to construction and infrastructure defects in the two weeks following the hurricane on September 20, 2017. Several pockets of deaths were linked to crucial facilities such as schools and hospitals.
Yaritsa Santiago, whose mother died after she was airlifted from Puerto Rico to Miami shortly after Maria’s passage, praised the investigation, because then the deaths related to the storm will not have been in vain. Her mother was due to undergo surgery in October for heart problems, but the hurricane forced the operation to be postponed.
“It seems fantastic to me that they are creating ‘awareness’ (consciousness)”Santiago, a Tampa resident, said by phone. “Many people had to leave Puerto Rico and die outside the island. ‘Following up’ is very important to prevent this from happening in the future ”.
Carlos Santos Burgoa, a professor at the Milken Institute who will lead the project, expressed in a statement the hope that it will help experts to quickly and accurately count the deaths caused by a natural disaster.
The Puerto Rican government at the time was heavily criticized for minimizing deaths related to Maria, which destroyed the power grid and caused damages estimated at more than $ 100 billion.
The government raised the official death toll from 64 to 2,975 following an independent report from George Washington University that there were many deaths in the aftermath of the hurricane and doctors were not trained to classify deaths after a disaster.