As thousands remain stranded in squalor

James Downie at the Post on Puerto Rico and neglect:

On Friday night, the Puerto Rico Department of Health for the first time in six months released official mortality numbers related to Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last September. The department counted at least 1,400 additional deaths on the island from September to December 2017 compared with the same period the previous year. That finding came three days after a Harvard University study was published that calculated some 4,600 additional deaths due to Maria. Both estimates are many times the official death count of 64 and suggest that Maria was one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history.

Yet on the major Sunday talk shows — the purest distillation of what the media and political establishments consider worth discussing — not once was Puerto Rico mentioned. That is a disgrace.

That’s not how it was with Katrina. I still have a yellowing Times front page of a body floating face down under a screaming headline…well I can just show you which one.

Image result for new york times front page katrina

Why was and is Puerto Rico after Maria so ignored compared to New Orleans after Katrina? Not purely race, because race was front and center with Katrina. Because it’s offshore? But so is Hawaii, and that’s not being ignored. Race and poverty and offshore all together? I guess so.

Even before these new official and unofficial estimates, the federal and local response to the hurricane hasn’t been given the media attention it deserves. It took seven months to restore power on the island, bridges and roads were impassable for weeks or months, and hospitals were overwhelmed. All these factors hindered emergency and other medical services, and, as the authors of the Harvard study wrote, “interruption of medical care was the primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months after the hurricane.” Relief from the federal government has been a classic case of too little, too late. After Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, Congress allocated more than $60 billion in aid within two weeks. (And the George W. Bush administration’s response to Katrina was still woeful even with all that funding.) After Hurricane Maria, Congress took almost five months to allocate a fraction of the $94 billion Puerto Rico’s government has estimated it needs.

Hurricane season is approaching.

3 Responses to “As thousands remain stranded in squalor”