NY Representative Seeks Answers on Hurricane Maria Death Toll

1Weeks later and we’re still unsure of how much damage Hurricane Maria really caused. Much of Puerto Rico is still without power and the Virgin Islands are starting completely over.

The current death toll in Puerto Rico is 49 but journalists, medical professionals and experts on the street say it could be high as 450. Hospitals were without power for weeks meaning there was no refrigeration for some medicines and some patients were at risk of overheating. For this reason, New York Congresswoman Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez is requesting an official audit of the death toll.

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“The American people deserve to know what’s happening to their fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico,” Velázquez said in a press release posted to her website. “Given recent reports suggesting that the death toll is much higher than is being officially acknowledged, we need a swift and thorough investigation to ensure the real magnitude of this crisis is made public.”

The report goes on to detail that the death toll could be inaccurate because federal officials want efforts to seem more successful than they are: “It would be morally reprehensible to intentionally underreport the true death toll to portray relief efforts as more successful than they are.”

However, the underreporting could also be due bad record keeping, whether because officials in Puerto Rico are overwhelmed or because they’re unable to truly count the number dead. But Velázquez does recognize that the harsh conditions on the island could impede recording.

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But better numbers could also help cities and states around the nation prepare for the influx of Americans moving stateside.

Last week, Rochester City School District officials said more than 100 new students from hurricane-affected areas now call the District home. 100 alone are from Puerto Rico. With Rochester’s high population of Puerto Ricans, it makes the city a natural beacon for residents of the island looking to unite with family and loved ones. However, there is no way of knowing how many students and families will come in total.

The District is working with local organizations like IBERO American Action League, Red Cross and Rochester Housing Authority to ease students’ transition.

Despite criticism from Democrats that President Donald Trump’s relief efforts aren’t going well, he maintains they are.

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