Showing posts with label Hurricane/ Storm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hurricane/ Storm. Show all posts

October 2, 2018

PR's Governor Says He Is Willing To Admit Mistakes He Made But 5 Millions PR's Will Back Politicians Helping The Island in The Mainland

Puerto Rico recently made headlines 12 months after Hurricane Maria barreled through the island. Last month, President Donald Trump called San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz “totally incompetent,” reigniting a feud in his attempt to defend the government agencies and his administration’s handling of recovery efforts. In response, Cruz said, "he never got it. He will never get it."  

Setting heated exchanges aside, the role of Governor Ricardo Rosselló also has come under fresh scrutiny. In the aftermath of Maria, he attempted totake a conciliatory approach toward the administration. A month after the catastrophe, Trump gave himself a score of “10” on Maria’s response, while Rosselló told reporters at the White House that “the president answered all of our petitions.”
Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló sat down with Newsweek to talk about the island's recovery efforts.

However, the Puerto Rican government also has faced harsh criticism over its role in the island’s recovery. In an interview with Newsweek last month, Cruz said the governor “did not ask enough.” In August, a Puerto Rico–funded report by George Washington University revealed that nearly 3,000 people had died between September 2017 and February 2018—a stark difference from the official death toll of 64 Rosselló adamantly defended for months. The same study discovered gaps "in the death certification and public communication processes" and found that "the risk of dying was 60 percent higher for individuals who lived in the poorest municipalities." 

Rosselló’s relationship with Trump turned sour in recent days. While the president said that his administration's response to Maria was “an unsung success,” Rosselló, 39, said that U.S.-Puerto Rico relations could not be considered “successful” because Puerto Ricans have not attained the same “inalienable rights” granted to U.S. citizens. “[Puerto Ricans] have favored statehood on two occasions,” he said, according to Puerto Rico’s newspaper El Nuevo Día. “Trivializing this is a lack of respect to the people of Puerto Rico, and we’re not going to accept that.”

A year after Maria and Irma, Rosselló wants to revamp Puerto Rico's economy by way of tourism and renewable energy. During a visit to New York in late September, he sat down with Newsweek to talk about Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and why it’s important for the island to become the 51st state.

You are an advocate of Puerto Rico statehood. The island would receive benefits from joining the U.S. such as full participation or parity of federal benefits. But those who don’t support this idea say Puerto Ricans will have a hard time paying federal, state and municipal taxes. How to reconcile both sides of the issue?  

On the economic front, it’s very simple. We get much more for being a state than what we would give back, so that’s easy to reconcile. The second part is the political power, and you can’t understate or put a price tag on what it means to have actual participation. As a matter of fact, the results of not having it you’re seeing it now in the slower and delayed recovery for Puerto Rico. To me, it is quite clear: Puerto Rico needs to change its current status and needs to go to statehood. There are other alternatives, but certainly, the current one [U.S. commonwealth] is not an option, and in my view, this is the best one and the one people prefer is statehood.

How would you explain to a U.S. citizen living on the mainland the importance of incorporating Puerto Rico as a U.S. state?

Well, I see Puerto Rico as the most exciting place to invest right now. We are the connector of the Americas. We already added a lot of value to the U.S., but I can see it as the center for diplomatic relationships between South and North America. I see it as the center for economic activity, and certainly, as was the case of Hawaii, for example, the bigger economy drives forward the smaller economy. There are synergies to becoming a state and that would benefit the average citizen. But I think the most important question is, are we satisfied as a democracy in having colonial territories in the 21st century? Are we satisfied with treating more than 3 million U.S. citizens differently just because of the place that they live? The answer is no.  

But months prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, only 500,000 of the 2.6 million Puerto Ricans participated in a plebiscite to support statehood. Do you think Puerto Ricans have lost interest in statehood, or have their views changed after Maria?

I think that there’s more interest than ever in statehood. I think that when you see national polls, you see the tendency clearly towards statehood and away from the other options [commonwealth or independence]. You can’t just take the last plebiscite by itself. There was another plebiscite executed four and a half years previous to that, where there was over 80 percent participation. Statehood won with 60-some percent of the vote, and the current status was rejected. The only reason folks decided not to participate in the plebiscite last year was that they knew what the outcome was going to be: that people were going to support statehood. Yes, support for statehood is big.

Puerto Rico's nonvoting member of Congress, Jenniffer González-Colon, submitted a proposal so that the island becomes the 51st state, and 53 Republicans and Democrats are co-sponsoring it. However, Congress has largely avoided the discussion over statehood. Do you think Congress will listen this time?

It’s a different platform. They have been avoiding it because they could; they have put it as a second- or third-level issue. Now, after the passing of the storm in Puerto Rico, the conversation has elevated to a point where people have a different view on Puerto Rico, and I will give you an example. Prior to the storm, only 20 percent of U.S. citizens in the mainland knew that we were citizens, and now more than 90 percent do. Once you create that consciousness, this has become a hot-button issue for politics. It is right time to get some action on this issue, and the question still remains: Do you want to remain a jurisdiction that has a colonial territory while claiming to be the standard bearer of democracy? The answer should be no.   

You are championing recovery efforts but FEMA has decided to halt the completion of funds that could help in reconstruction initiatives. Why is this detrimental to Puerto Rico’s future?

Our process with FEMA has been marred with bureaucracy. Part of the importance of FEMA in this process is that they were the first line of defense in the recovery, making sure that people have rooms and that adequate resources for an emergency are executed. By delaying this process, you’re delaying the recovery and eventual reconstruction of Puerto Rico. We have very specific asks: Eliminate the excessive bureaucracy that has been imposed on Puerto Rico as opposed to Texas and Florida. Allow us to have a 100 percent of the cost share that is on the president’s desk. We’re asking for his consideration here, and this is nothing different from what happened in Louisiana with Katrina [in 2005]. Enable us to push forward on the recovery, because things need to move faster on FEMA’s side.

Did you ask FEMA to make an exemption of the Stafford Act and the Jones Act, which restricts the upgrade of damaged infrastructure after a natural disaster and prohibits the docking of non-U.S. ships into Puerto Rico’s ports, respectively?   

Well, they already did the test study for the exemption of the Jones Act, so that certainly would be helpful. I think there are many things that need to be changed in the Stafford Act. It’s very restraining and limiting, and for devastations of a certain magnitude it really inhibits the progress moving forward, so there needs to be a broader discussion on how we make the Stafford Act better, how we amend it and how we respond to these devastations.

There is no doubt in my mind that with climate change, this is going to be a significant issue that we’re facing not only in Puerto Rico but in the rest of the nation and the rest of the world. There are going to be side effects such as erosion and, of course, the impacts that we’re seeing. We need to calibrate for those, mitigate and build resilient [infrastructure], so that’s part of my commitment to Puerto Rico. We want to make sure we use this opportunity not only to rebuild but to do it smarter, and innovate.

You are currently at odds with the Fiscal Control Board—a group of seven members appointed by the White House and approved by the PROMESA Act of 2016 to oversee Puerto Rico’s debt crisis—because they haven’t agreed on some legislative measures, such as defending retirees’ pensions and a reduction on financial burden for municipalities. Do you believe the board presents a hurdle to your job as a governor since much of the island’s financial decisions have to go through them?

I recognize the role of the board. We have many differences, and I will fight those differences. From a philosophical perspective, and even prior [to the board’s establishment], I have always opposed the notion of the board. It’s nondemocratic; it’s imposing certain people that are working part-time to be part of a very significant and robust decision-making process. So again, similar to my view with colonialism, this is just another outcome of colonialism. That’s another idea or reason we should veer away from it. No state would have fiscal oversight.

Detractors say the board must leave PR because it doesn’t solve underlying issues such as unemployment. Do you think the Fiscal Control Board should leave Puerto Rico? 

Whether by another action or by our own, once we get budgets balanced, then the oversight board leaves. I think, again, it is something that I don’t think works. The board was there before I became governor. I’m working with it, but I’ll fight it every time I have the opportunity.

It does seem that you and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz concur on several aspects, particularly renewable energy and the removal of U.S. colonization. So why is there a political rift?

We have different worldviews. We have ways of getting our messages across, so that’s another. My way of operating is execution and getting results, while hers is more media-driven. I believe Puerto Rico should be the connector of the Americas and become a U.S. state, but she doesn’t. I believe we should have free market flow and economic development in Puerto Rico, but she opposes it. We have very different worldviews, but as I said in the process of rebuilding Puerto Rico, I’m always willing to work with anybody.

Cruz does agree with you in the mobilization of more than 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. to vote against legislators who forgot about the island. You said last year that Puerto Ricans should “shake up the midterm elections in states ranging from Florida to California.” Are you still standing by that claim? 

Of course, and it is consistent with my worldview. It is not consistent with Cruz’s, as she doesn’t believe in a relationship between the island and the U.S. I think that Puerto Ricans who live in the States and have moved by virtue of lack of opportunities or otherwise can be our political muscle, as it should be.

I will be very much involved in the midterm elections, showcasing that Puerto Ricans will be the determinant factor in those midterm elections. My prediction is that you’ll see that many elections will tilt one way or the other by virtue of the Puerto Rican vote, and more so than just the absolute value of the 5.6 million Puerto Ricans, because there are lots of friends of Puerto Rico, too.

You’re a Democrat. However, there has been some criticism that you have sided with President Donald Trump during the initial recovery efforts, especially after his statement that Puerto Ricans had "thrown our budget out of whack" in the wake of the crisis, as well as the way he treated them with the infamous paper towel tossing. How do you respond to that?

Again, I don’t object to criticism; I welcome it. But I tell you what my role is. The easy thing to do would be to stand up, kick and scream and get nothing done for Puerto Rico. I chose to open a channel of communication, even if the president is from a different party than I am. I chose to establish a dialogue and collaboration with federal agencies, so that has been my focus. I think that right now we are in a world where there’s a lot of noise, a lot of screaming and kicking, and that doesn’t get very much done. I think we need to execute, and the best way to get results is by establishing your case, having an open dialogue and do it right by your people.

You are in New York to promote tourism development opportunities in Puerto Rico, but some hotels need to be rebuilt in the Old San Juan, the electrical grid is not ready, and some areas still have blue tarps installed by FEMA. Moreover, some of these companies bring their own staff abroad. How can tourism resolve poverty and brain drain?

There are many things that need to be done in order to resolve these issues, but tourism is a critical component. We see a path to grow within five or seven years in doubling the output in tourism in Puerto Rico. We’ve done several things to do that: We’re taking the promotion of tourism outside of the government and we’re doing it with the industry, so that stakeholders can drive that and have some consistency. Also, we’re creating Puerto Rico as a multiport destination so that flights and boats can come from many different jurisdictions.

Many of the hotels that still haven’t opened are because they’re making remodeling efforts, so many of them will be opening in next quarter and some of them will open the following year, and new hotels are coming to Puerto Rico. We have embarked on transforming [our] energy grid from one that is probably one of the worst in our region to what we aspire to be a model in all of the region and perhaps the world—one that has more than 40 percent renewables and that can be cost-effective and reliable. We want a system that can have a customer-centric approach, solving the customer’s needs.

We see it as part of the job creation to get our economy flowing. This is not the only way to generate employment but it's certainly an important part, and what we wanted to do here in New York was let all the stakeholders know that Puerto Rico is open for business and that we're receiving tourism. It is, in my view, the most exciting place to invest so that we can attract capital, visitors and development.

You once said that one of your greatest regrets was not asking for a more accurate death toll.  Twelve months after Maria, what other regrets do you have?

I made mistakes and I own them up. There are two types of leadership in that sense: You can either ignore your mistakes and keep on making them, or you identify them and try to fix them. There are many things, we faced a devastation unlike any other, and we learned from that. I estimated that the electric grid was ready by mid-December but we didn’t achieve that goal, so that was a mistake on my part.

Our protocols, not only the death-toll protocol but just the readiness for hurricanes in Puerto Rico—and in the United States, which is very concerning—were never prepared for an event of this magnitude. Now, moving towards the future, we are prepared for the worst-case scenario. We only had one distribution site of commodities in Puerto Rico, and now we have nine across the island so that they can be better suited for. There have been mistakes, and my commitment is to own them up and fix them.


September 24, 2018

In Many Parts of Puerto Rico it seems like the storm hit yesterday. The damage it is still there.

Utuado (Central West in the Island). Even a well constructed cement house to which testament it does not breaks apart but the wind and the heavy rain blows it down the reveen. The worse part is this: A home in Utuado severely damaged by Hurricane Maria remains unlivable a year later.

Photographs by Joseph Rodriguez
Written by Ed Morales
Mr. Rodriguez is a photojournalist. Mr. Morales is the author of a book about Latino identity in the United States.
Last October, my sister and I traveled to Puerto Rico to pick up our 89-year-old mother and take her back to New York. Hurricane Maria had battered her remote mountain community in Río Grande, near the El Yunque National Forest. 

My mother, who coincidentally is named María, had long resisted our pleas to move to the mainland, but we knew that in the chaos after the storm, many Puerto Ricans, especially older people, would die. We didn’t want her to be one of them. She finally agreed to leave.

Because of the damage to her home in Utuado, Julia Rivera, 48, who has nine children, has to collect and store water in plastic jugs and cook meals in a makeshift kitchen she created in her backyard.

Poor communities in urban areas like Santurce and Loíza are struggling with severely damaged housing, the loss of jobs and small businesses, and sluggish responses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In rural communities, it’s even worse. Julia Rivera, a mother of nine in Utuado, a mountainous town in the path of Maria’s center, still needs funds to repair her leaking roof. “I have lost everything but my faith in God,” she lamented.

Julia Rivera’s son Sandro Rodriguez Rivera in his bedroom. The power is intermittent and water leaks through the house’s badly damaged ceilings.

Puerto Rico was experiencing a health care crisis before Maria, with doctors leaving in droves for the mainland and severe cuts in Medicaidlooming. In Vieques — an island on the east coast of Puerto Rico that once housed a United States Navy base — the hospital was flooded and then overtaken by toxic mold. The hospital remains closed, and patients can receive only basic care in temporary medical facility.

Anna Tufino Camacho, 93, lives alone in Vieques. Blind in one eye, she also has heart disease and a fractured spine. Volunteers from Fundación Stefano check in on Ms. Camacho, who weathered the hurricane by lying in a bathtub.

A mural in Old San Juan that means “Promise Is Poverty,” a reference to the Financial Oversight and Management Board imposed by Congress.

In Palo Seco, Juanita and Artemio García, who would like to rebuild their local cafe, are weighing whether to move to Orlando, Fla., to be with their son, a music teacher, and his children. “I still haven’t made up my mind,” Mr. García said. “My son keeps asking, and maybe he’s right. I miss my grandchildren.”

 Juanita and Artemio García, married 54 years, would like to rebuild their café, named Two Times, in Palo Seco, but are considering moving to Florida.

Fernando Montero, a 64-year-old coffee farmer in Utuado, and his wife, Maria Gonzalez, lost six of their thirteen acres of coffee plants in the hurricane. Mr. Montero says it will take three years for the crop to come back.

And yet, as spring approached, my mother began to miss the rhythms of her barrio. In February, we heard that the power there had been restored. Her sister, Mercedes, and her neighbors had made their way back. Though we had wanted so much for her to stay, we knew it was time for her to do the same. She needed to be in the place that made her feel alive. 

Ed Morales teaches at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and his latest book is “Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture.” 
Joseph Rodriguez is a photojournalist whose latest book is “Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s.” This article was produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
Produced by Jeffrey Henson Scales and Isvett Verde

August 10, 2018

Puerto Rico Acknowledges Close to 1500 People Died Not 64 {{The Shoe Memorial_Missing the Wearers}}

 A woman stands among hundreds of pairs of shoes displayed at the Puerto Rico’s Capitol to pay tribute to Hurricane Maria's victims

Puerto Rico has acknowledged that Hurricane Maria killed 1,427 people in the US territory, not 64 as it has previously reported.
Maria hit the island in September 2017 and it has struggled to repair its infrastructure and power grid.
The latest figure was in a draft report for US Congress, requesting $139bn (£108bn) in recovery funds. 
The New York Times was first to report that the island's authorities had quietly accepted the revised estimate.
Image result for Over 1400 died in puerto rico
A government spokesperson acknowledged the latest number as a "realistic estimate" but said that the death toll had not been officially changed, as the authorities were awaiting the results of a study by George Washington University. 
"We don't want to say it out loud or publicise it as an official number... until we see the study and have the accuracy," Pedro Cerame from the island's Federal Affairs Administration told the Times.
The government has faced criticism for underreporting the number of those killed in the wake of 2017 storm. Researchers from Harvard University said interviews conducted in Puerto Rico suggested a 60% increase in mortality in the three months after the storm.
Many died from interrupted medical care and lack of access to hospitals. The power outage also led to an increased number of deaths from diabetes and sepsis.
Hurricane Maria caused the largest blackout in US history, according to research consultancy the Rhodium Group.
There have also been repeated power cuts since then, including an island-wide one in April, nearly seven months after the hurricane.
Overall, Hurricane Maria caused losses of $90bn, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said.
The Caribbean island is home to 3.4 million US citizens.

June 18, 2018

FEMA Blames "Delays" in PR on Maria Records Tell They are Lying


A month after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan stepped off a helicopter in the town of Ceiba with a mission: Get relief supplies to people in need.
He and FEMA's regional administrator, Thomas Von Essen, told the town's mayor and other mayors from across the island that generators, plastic roofs, and tarps would be there within days.
"There are 50,000 more blue tarps coming in over the next week," Buchanan said. "So these will all get pushed to all the mayors."
Von Essen added that FEMA had as many as 500 generators on the island before the storm and would soon distribute them.
But today, it's clear none of those promises were kept, and FEMA and the federal government failed on multiple fronts to help the devastated island recover.
Trump comes to Puerto Rico to bring paper Towels and criticism of Puerto Ricans

NPR and the PBS series Frontline examined hundreds of pages of internal documents and emails. Rather than a well-orchestrated effort, they paint a picture of a relief agency in chaos, struggling with key contracts, basic supplies and even its own workforce.

Internal briefing documents show FEMA never had 500 generators on the island before the storm — it had 25. Its plastic roof program was out of plastic, and the most tarps FEMA ever produced was 125,000 — months after people needed them.
Hours after NPR and FRONTLINE published these findings, Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate introduced a bill to create an independent commission to investigate the "flawed" federal response in Puerto Rico. They noted the "botched FEMA contracts" in calling for the commission. The legislation also calls for an examination of the island's death toll, and whether Puerto Rico was treated differently than Texas and Florida were after hurricanes last year, as NPR and FRONTLINE found.
"It is heartbreaking to learn that the more we closely examine [Hurricane Maria's] aftermath, the clearer we see the federal government failed the people of Puerto Rico," said U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., in announcing the legislation, which was written by U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, D-N.Y.
FEMA's federal coordinating officer for Maria, Michael Byrne, said blame for any failures rests with the storm, not with federal responders contending with taxed resources and complicated geography.
"If there's a villain here, it's the 190 mph winds and the 50 inches of rain," Byrne said. "That's the villain. That's what did the damage to the people. We've done nothing but try to remedy that."
Still, as NPR and Frontline traveled the island in the months after the storm, it was clear many of the problems were man-made. 
In Luquillo, Mayor Jesus Rodriguez said he had been waiting more than two months for FEMA to provide just seven generators that would power the town's water pumps. He said he couldn't understand what could hold up such a critical request in a town that had no running water. 
"Water is life," he said, frustrated.
In Piñones, William Torruella, a pastor, and his congregation spent weeks gathering supplies on their own to deliver to nearby towns. He said when FEMA arrived in Morovis, two months after the storm, he asked what had taken so long. Officials told him the roads to the town had been closed. 
"They were not closed," Torruella said, shaking his head. "I've been going there. The excuses do not explain what's happening."
Even an international disaster worker checking on survivors in Yabucoa in January was confused by the delays.
"We were pretty surprised to see how slow the response was [in Puerto Rico]," said Alice Thomas, a program manager with Refugees International, who has been to more than a dozen disasters. "Compared especially to major emergencies I've seen in foreign countries," she said. "And we couldn't get over particularly how bad the shelter response was."
The seemingly simple process of distributing tarps to storm victims illustrates the problem. Thomas said storm victims need tarps in the first week or two if they hope to save their homes.
"Why they couldn't get tarps, I do not know," she said, adding that federal officials working on the ground called the tarp delays a "mystery."
When asked what accounted for the delays, FEMA's Byrne said it was difficult to get supplies to Puerto Rico because it's an island.
"We had problems getting everything," he said. "When you have to ship it, you have to add seven days or sometimes longer to everything that you want to bring in. It's definitely a challenge."
Yet 20 years ago, after Hurricane Georges hit the island, there weren't reports of these logistical problems.

And the agency's own records reflect a different picture.
According to planning and briefing documents, the agency did not pre-position enough supplies on the island before the storm, as federal rules require. The day Maria hit, agency records show, FEMA had fewer than 12,000 tarps on the island. Then, the agency failed to acquire more.
First, records show, FEMA hired a company that was just two months old. It didn't provide a single tarp. Then FEMA chose a company whose last contract had been for $4,000 worth of kitchen utensils for a prison. It didn't produce a single tarp either.
Finally, FEMA turned to a third company, called Master Group. Its specialty, according to its website, is importing hookah tobacco. It produced some tarps, but when employees examined them in a warehouse in January, FEMA says, the tarps failed a quality-control inspection.
Import records examined by NPR and Frontline show the company brought the tarps in from China, which violates federal contracting rules. After NPR and Frontlinequestioned FEMA about this, the agency suspended the company.
FEMA was also struggling with contracts to deliver food, diesel fuel and other supplies.
Byrne said these were just a few troubled contracts out of more than 2,000 that did not have problems.
"We had a couple of ones that didn't work out well and we dealt with it," Byrne said. "I continue [to] focus on getting it solved."
Behind the scenes, though, some federal workers were discouraged. In one email, a top Army Corps official complained to FEMA managers, "We cannot survive any longer with any delay of materials," the engineer wrote. "I cannot keep saying we are trying. ... I need solutions." 

The Army Corps' plastic roof program, known as blue roofs, provides stronger roof sheeting tied down to houses. Without tarps, it became even more critical.
But FEMA didn't have enough plastic sheeting on the island. In the first month after Hurricane Irma in Florida, records show, the Army Corps put up 4,500 blue roofs. In Puerto Rico, just 439.
"It goes back to how much material do you have?" said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, who oversees the Army Corps. "Almost all the warehouses were empty. So when we hit, the amount of available supplies, either generators, blue roof material, whatever it might be, were just not there ... that could have gotten us more of a jump-start."
When it came to getting the lights on, federal officials chose a contractor named Fluor — a company with global experience building power generation plants but little experience rebuilding the grids that distribute power to communities. Government sources said they went with Fluor because it was a company they trusted, but they also described weeks of bureaucratic delays as the company got up to speed.
But that wasn't all that was causing FEMA headaches. FEMA was struggling with its own staff. One internal staffing document reveals that more than a quarter of the staff FEMA hired to provide people assistance on the island was "untrained" and another quarter was "unqualified."
Byrne bristles at the suggestion that FEMA didn't help people.
"I think we've done a lot of support," he said. "How can you look at the fact that we gave a billion dollars in assistance out, that we've given out 62 million liters of water, 52 million meals to the people. How can you categorize that as not providing assistance? I find that that doesn't connect." Oscar Carrión taught himself how to string up the electrical wire and restored power to thousands in his town.

Still, he said FEMA will learn from its mistakes. There were "a number of places where we weren't perfect," he said. "I'll accept that. I'm going to keep working to get better."
Four months after the storm, in a small neighborhood near San Juan called Villa Hugo, local resident Oscar Carrión wasn't waiting for help.
He had taken it upon himself to turn the lights on and had already restored power to 3,000 neighbors.
"I'm afraid of heights and of the electrical current," he said in Spanish. "The first time I got up there, I was trembling all over. I still tremble."
Carrión owns a grocery and has four kids. He has no experience working on power poles and doesn't own any safety equipment. He and his neighbors pooled together $2,500 to buy an old rusted bucket truck.
On this day, the neighbors unwound wire along the street and Carrión worked pole to pole.
"I guess I am taking a risk," he said, "but it's difficult to live in the dark. We were tired of hearing that they can't get to us. So we've decided to move forward on our own."
As he got back into the truck, he paused for a minute and said, "If we don't do it, nobody will do it for us."

Emma Schwartz, Kate McCormick and Rick Young of Frontline and Justin Elliott of ProPublica contributed reporting to this article.

May 30, 2018

Study Shows Almost 5,000 Deaths in Puerto Rico From Hurricane Maria 2017

Perhaps 5,000 people died in Puerto Rico in 2017 for reasons related to September's Hurricane Maria, according to a study that dismisses the official death toll of 64 as "a substantial underestimate."
A research team led by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health didn't simply attempt to count dead bodies in the wake of the powerful storm. Instead, they surveyed randomly chosen households and asked the occupants about their experiences.
From that approach, they concluded that between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, 2017, there were 4,645 "excess deaths" — that is, deaths that would not have occurred if the island hadn't been plunged into a prolonged disaster following the devastating storm.
But the estimate isn't as precise as the figure implies. The researchers calculate there is a 95 percent likelihood the death toll was somewhere between about 800 and 8,500 people. They say about 5,000 is a likely figure.
The findings are being published Tuesday by The New England Journal of Medicine.
The research team randomly selected 3,299 households in Puerto Rico. Local scientists surveyed them over the course of three weeks in January. People in those homes reported a total of 38 deaths. The scientists then extrapolated that finding to the island's total population of 3.4 million people to estimate the number of deaths. The researchers then subtracted deaths recorded during that same period in 2016 and concluded that the mortality rate in Puerto Rico had jumped 62 percent in the three months following the storm.
The Puerto Rico Department of Health didn't respond immediately to requests for comment about the study.
The death rate is a contentious subject, in part because federal and island governments haven't responded as rapidly to the disaster as they have in other hurricane emergencies. The study notes that 83 percent of the households in Puerto Rico were without electrical power for the time period looked at, more than 100 days, from the date of the hurricane until the end of 2017.
Puerto Rico residents and outside observers have long argued that the official death toll is hopelessly inadequate. It captures the number of deaths the medical examiner attributed directly to the storm — the high water and howling winds in the worst natural disaster on record for the U.S. territory. Maria came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds gusting at over 110 mph and drenching rainfall.
CNN surveyed funeral homes after the storm and tallied 499 hurricane-related deaths. The New York Times compared official death records from September and October 2017 and identified more than 1,000 excess deaths, compared with the average for 2015 and 2016. Alexis Santos, a researcher at Penn State University, and a colleague, used death certificates to come up with a similar estimate.
The government of Puerto Rico commissioned researchers from George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health to estimate excess deaths. Results of that study have been delayed and are due out this summer.
"Our approach is complementary to that and it provides a different kind of estimate and a different kind of insight into the impact of the hurricane," says Caroline Buckee, a lead author of the new study and epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers suggested that the government in Puerto Rico could use its methods in an even larger survey to reduce the large uncertainties in their findings.
The Harvard study covers a greater time period than The New York Times' calculation, a difference that could partly account for the much higher figure.
The household survey is a widely accepted technique for estimating casualties following a disaster. But it can be misleading if the sample isn't truly random or if some households have been wiped out altogether and are therefore missing from the survey. In the latter, the result would underestimate the true toll. In fact, the Harvard team says its results are "likely to be an underestimate" because of this bias. 
The survey looked at deaths through the end of 2017, but the scientists suspect that the excess deaths continued into this year. "We saw consistent, high rates, in September, October, November, December," says Rafael Irizarry, a biostatistician on the research team. "There's no reason to think that on Jan. 1 this trend stops."
"Hurricane Maria caused massive infrastructural damage to Puerto Rico," the Harvard team writes in its study.
"In our survey, interruption of medical care was the primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months following the hurricane," the wrote. Hospitals and doctors struggled to provide care, and many people simply had trouble getting to the doctor or the hospital to seek medical care. The survey finds that one-third of the total deaths in the months following the storm were caused by delayed or interrupted health care.
Understanding the true number is important for many reasons. "There are ramifications not only for families, not only for closure, but also financial ramifications" such as for aid and preparedness, says Dr. Satchit Balsari, one of the lead investigators, who is a physician at the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.

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