In early October 2017, Donald Trump traveled to Puerto Rico for a briefing on Hurricane Maria relief efforts. The president complained to locals that they’ve “thrown our budget a little out of whack,” before telling them that the island death toll wasn’t that bad.
Hurricane Katrina, Trump told Puerto Ricans, was “a real catastrophe” because of its death toll. Told that the official death toll on the island, as of the time of that briefing, was 16 people, the president added, “Sixteen people versus in the thousands.”
Here we are, 10 months later.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello is raising Puerto Rico’s official toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 in response to a new, government-commissioned study finding deaths from the storm were severely undercounted.
He’s also creating a commission to implement recommendations in the new report, and creating a registry of the people expected to be most vulnerable in a future storm, such as the elderly, bedridden or kidney-dialysis patients.
The new estimate of 2,975 dead in the six months after Maria devastated the island in September 2017 was made by researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. It was released Tuesday.
I hope the White House will revisit whether the disaster now qualifies as “a real catastrophe.”
NBC News reported that Gov. Rosselló emphasized that the new figure is “still an estimate,” but it’s a brutal estimate nevertheless.