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Puerto Rico Death Toll Recount Urged Months After Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico Death Toll Recount Urged Months After Hurricane Maria

According to The New York Times, the territory of Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo A. Rosselló has ordered an official recount of the U.S. government's prior official count of those who died as a result of Hurricane Maria. This follows the Times and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism separately reporting that the Puerto Rico death toll is not nearly as low as the U.S. government's official count of 64, but instead at least 1,052 and 1,065 respectively.

"This is about more than numbers."

"We always expected that the number of hurricane-related deaths would increase as we received more factual information—not hearsay—and this review will ensure we are correctly counting everybody," Rossello wrote in a statement. "This is about more than numbers, these are lives: real people, leaving behind loved ones and families. The Government needs to work with sensibility and certainty in the process of certifying a death related to the hurricane."

This pushes the death toll up to the level of Hurricane Katrina's tally.

And that is not OK.

But for those who have been paying attention to the Puerto Rico's recovery, or lack thereof, this is not news -- not even close.

People have been saying for months that true numbers of those who died during and immediately after Hurricane Maria laid devastation to the island are much higher than anyone could even keep track of.

In October, Buzzfeed News reported that hundreds of bodies were being burned in crematoriums without any record.

By November, the number of deaths reported by funeral homes was ten times the official count.

CNN surveyed 112 Puerto Rican funeral homes, who reported an estimated 500 deaths related to the storm.

Then in early December, hip-hop artist and actor Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., also known as Common (formerly Common Sense), shared on Twitter numerous reports of the alarming lack of tracking performed by the government.

Other legislators have now called for a recount.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York and Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi penned a letter to the Government Accountability Office, “demanding a review of the official death count in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria."

People are livid that the government has not done more to help their fellow Americans.

We need to keep paying attention to Puerto Rico, keep helping, until the situation drastically improves.

But not everyone believes the recount would actually help.

Speaking of the restoration of services and power, three months since Hurrican Maria hit landfall in Puerto Rico, thousands of Americans are still without power.

At least the eyes of the world are on still on Puerto Rico.

In November, artist-writer Molly Crabapple spent a week in Puerto Rico documenting grassroots efforts by communities to rebuild after Hurricane Maria.

The question remains: What will our own government do now to help Puerto Rico, and to properly account for all the lives lost?

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h/t: Twitter, The New York Times, Buzzfeed News, CNN, The Paris Review