September 20th, 2017 at 6:15 a.m, Hurricane Maria makes landfall right outside of the City of Yabucoa in Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service reports confirm maximum wind speeds of 155 miles per hour, making Hurricane Maria the first Category 4 cyclone to hit the island head-on since 1932. This catastrophic storm gained strength and was almost rated a Category 5 in its first hour, a specification only used for storms that exceed winds 157 miles per hour or higher. Puerto Rico saw 30 inches of rain in one day, equal to the amount that Houston Texas received over a three-day period with Hurricane Harvey. The winds caused damage to far-reaching areas of the island. Winds with such force that the National Weather Service’s weather and wind sensors were disabled or destroyed, Meteorologists could only measure and follow the storm by satellite.
How could they have been so wrong?
Sixty-four reported total deaths accumulated after Hurricane Maria was all said and done. This total has been profoundly challenged and scrutinized as the amount of property damage and overall loss doesn’t even remotely fall in line with this assessment. How could they have been so wrong?
A report released by the New England Journal of medicine conducted and Funded by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states Hurricane Maria Killed 4,645 in Puerto Rico. That’s 70 times the number of people on the initial and official report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes and defines Hurricane deaths, such as sustained by hurricane Maria as Direct or indirect. Direct deaths are from drowning or other effects of the storm itself. Indirect deaths include those in which related factors, such as difficulty reaching a hospital for care, or trouble filling medical prescriptions, ultimately ending in death. The Harvard study found that interruptions in medical care were the primary cause for the high mortality rates in the months after the storm. Yet, the 64 reported deaths are all direct deaths.
The population of Puerto Rico is made up of 3.5 million American citizens. American citizens that were without electricity for a full week in its largest cities after Hurricane Maria arrived. Still to this day, eight months later, people are still living without full power or do not have access to electricity without using gas-run generators. Puerto Rico’s Electric Authority states it will take possibly two more months to restore power to the residents that are still affected and in the dark.
As Puerto Rico even heals and rebuilds it also prepares for the inevitable 2018 hurricane season. The questions many of us ask are: “Can They survive? Will they be overlooked and left for dead?” While we ask questions, 3.5 million Americans living in this situation are actively thinking about this daily, while bracing themselves for what’s to come.
The people of this beautiful island don’t have
the luxury to forget!
Puerto Rico has been left broken and devastated; lives have been lost, families destroyed, and it shouldn’t have taken a Harvard case study to remind the world of this disgusting horror. The people of this beautiful island don’t have the luxury to forget! Yet, unaccounted lives and bodies have become nothing more than a typical attention-grabbing number, a hashtag, a trending and fleeting topic. We are days away from New York City’s Puerto Rican day parade; one of the most recognized and largest parades nationwide. A spectacle that draws in about 2 million spectators who will cheer, clap and celebrate a culture that stems from an island that has nothing to celebrate.
A protest has been organized in San Juan by the Collective Action for Puerto Rico, a coalition of labor organizations. Protesters held signs, and they took off their shoes to represent the family members, peers and neighbors who perished as a result of the hurricane, but who were never counted. This is a call for more attention in the aftermath of the hurricane. This is a call for help for the people that are still struggling on the island. This is a call to action. Will you answer?