A new report places the number of people killed in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, well above the official death toll. According to an analysis completed by the New York Times Friday (Dec. 8), more than 1,000 people died from the catastrophic storm.
Officials in Puerto Rico have placed the official number of casualties at 64, but the Times report found 1,052 casualties of the storm, which made landfall on September 20.
The NYT analysis was completed by comparing the number of deaths each day this year, with the average number of deaths in 2016 and 2015. A separate report from The Center for Investigative Journalism found that at least 985 people died from the hurricane.
Hurricane Maria struck as a category 4 storm, the aftermath of which destroyed buildings, flooded streets, left thousands homeless, and cut off power for more than 3 million people. After three months, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have pretty much disappeared from the daily news cycle, as the islands struggle to rebuild and restore some form of normalcy after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
On Monday (Dec. 11), U.N. envoy Philip Alston toured hard hit areas in Puerto Rico, amid ongoing criticism over the U.S. government’s response to the natural disaster.
“I’ve visited areas that are still completely without power. I’ve seen areas that have lots of damage that hasn’t been removed, and that must be very distressing after three months,” Alston noted.
Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority has had trouble securing solid relief efforts to fully restore electricity.
Two multi-million contracts fell through within weeks of each other, the first of which was with Whitefish Energy, a small Montana company. Last month, Whitefish accused PREPA of owing them $83 million of a $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Whitefish, which is located in the hometown of Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, walked away from the job as questions arose over the two-year-old company’s qualifications, and costly expenses resulted in an FBI investigation.
After the Whitefish debacle, FEMA terminated a more than $30 million contract with Bronze Star LLC, after a newly founded Florida company that was hired to provide emergency tarps for Puerto Rico, but failed to deliver.
Fluor Enterprises has since landed an $831 million contract to restore the electric grid in Puerto Rico by February.