In Puerto Rico: Bring Out Your Dead

October 28, 2017


The Trump admin’s Final Solution to Puerto Rico’s Problems..


AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico — Funeral directors and crematoriums are being permitted by the Puerto Rican government to burn the bodies of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria — without those people being counted in the official death toll.

The result is a massive loophole likely suppressing the official death count, which has become a major indicator of how the federal government’s relief efforts are going because President Trump himself made it one.

During Trump’s photo-op visit to the US territory — whose residents are US citizens — three weeks ago, he boasted that the death toll was just 16. It doubled by the time he returned to Washington that same day. The death toll is now at 51, a figure widely contradicted by what funeral homes, crematoriums, and hospitals on the ground tell BuzzFeed News.

Then, last week, when asked how he would rate the White House’s response to the crisis, Trump said, “I’d say it was a 10.” More than a month after the storm made landfall on Sept. 20, 2.6 million people are without power, at least 875,000 people don’t have access to running water, and 66% of the island still doesn’t have cell service.

Trump added, “I’d say it was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved.” Meanwhile, two US representatives and 13 senators recently wrote letters to the acting head of homeland security requesting investigations into the death toll.

Last week, BuzzFeed News visited 10 funeral homes and crematoriums in two Puerto Rican municipalities on the territory’s western coast, Aguadilla and Mayagüez, at least two hours away from the bustling San Juan. The findings include:

  • Communication between the central institute certifying official hurricane deaths, called the Institute of Forensic Sciences, and funeral homes or crematoriums appears to be fully broken, with each side waiting for the other to take action.
  • The central institute is also giving crematoriums permission to burn bodies of potential hurricane victims — which is happening more because it is cheaper and logistically easier as families rebuild their lives — without examining them first, which means they are not being counted in the official death toll.
  • Disaster experts say this lack of a transparent and consistent approach to counting deaths means the toll is likely inaccurate.
  • And experts also say an inaccurate official death toll potentially cheats families out of FEMA relief funds and could hurt how future disasters are handled.

The funeral home and crematorium directors told BuzzFeed News that they had received dozens of bodies of people who died of hurricane-related causes — just the cases from these two municipalities would potentially more than double the death toll if they were included. The Forensic Institute permitted the bodies of at least 42 potential hurricane victims to be burned, according to one crematorium director.

Puerto Rico’s safety department says the funeral and crematorium directors should send any potential hurricane-related victims to the institute before they’re burned — but admit they haven’t actually officially communicated that to them.

John Mutter, a professor of earth sciences and public affairs at Columbia University who studied how the death count was handled after Hurricane Katrina, said Puerto Rico’s procedures seem to be “deliberately trying to keep the numbers low,” which he called “unconscionable.” Other experts called it a failure of bureaucracy.


New York Daily News:

The Puerto Rican government is allowing funeral directors and crematoriums to burn the bodies of Hurricane Maria victims without counting them in the official death toll.

The result is a death count that masks the extent of the hurricane’s devastation.

The official death toll now stands at 51, but is widely considered to be a gross underestimation of the actual number of lives lost during and after the hurricane.

Local relief workers estimated that more than 400 bodies were packed into a morgue in Aguadilla, in the U.S. territory’s northwestern tip, and Reps. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) have called for an investigation into underreporting in the official death toll following the hurricane.


The nation’s largest nurses union condemned the federal government’s emergency response in Puerto Rico on Thursday for “delaying necessary humanitarian aide to its own citizens and leaving them to die.”

The stinging criticism came from members of the nonprofit National Nurses United, speaking on Capitol Hill with Democratic members of Congress after a two-week humanitarian mission to Puerto Rico. About 50 volunteer nurses visited two dozen towns in urban and rural areas, and described the desperation of Puerto Ricans — even five weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island — as worse than anything they had witnessed on other humanitarian missions, including the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans and the earthquake in Haiti.

The official death toll from the storm so far is 51, though Vox’s own reporting suggests the actual number of deaths could be in the hundreds.

The nurses described doctors performing surgery in hospitals with light from their cellphones, children screaming from hunger, elderly residents suffering from severe dehydration, and black mold spreading throughout entire communities.

“We cannot be silent while millions of people continue to endure these conditions,” said Bonnie Castillo, associate executive director of National Nurses United.

She said some nurses arrived in towns that never got food or water supplies, or any other help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some communities the nurses visited that did get supplies were not getting enough.

It’s hard to get information about overall relief efforts in Puerto Rico, as some towns remain completely cut off from internet and phone service. Right now, about 75 percent of the island doesn’t have electricity and 25 percent doesn’t have running water. (Vox’s reporting suggests that far fewer people have access to drinking water than statistics show.)

2 Responses to “In Puerto Rico: Bring Out Your Dead”

  1. indy222 Says:

    Trump’s “Final Solution” indeed. Trump takes to heart just despots of the past, that there’s nothing he can’t get away with, no matter how degrading, sociopathic, and despicable.

  2. We have indeed become a third world nation when we refuse to take care of our own.

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