White House responds to higher PR hurricane toll


On Tuesday, the official toll went up from just 64 people killed to almost 3,000 in the six months after the storm slammed into Puerto Rico.

While Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello adopted the lower number as the official count, Rossello's number could rise, the Washington Post reported today.

It's also about double the government's previous interim estimate of 1,400.

The latest Puerto Rico figure was derived from comparisons between predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after the storm, a number that turned out to be 22 percent higher.

Researchers attributed undercounting of storm-related deaths to poor communications and the lack of well-established guidelines and training for physicians on how to certify deaths in major disasters.

He's also creating a commission to implement recommendations in the new report, and creating a registry of the people expected to be most vulnerable in a future storm, such as the elderly, bedridden or kidney-dialysis patients.

Speaking at a news conference in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, Rossello said his government was adopting the findings as the official account of human life lost in the disaster, "even though it is an estimate". He said he could not order the government to do "that which in a humanitarian and caring world should be done".

"Puerto Rico I would say was, by far, the most difficult of the group and you know right now, FEMA and all of the people that worked so hard there, they were very fearless and they have done some job", Trump said.

"Hurricane Maria was a catastrophe of historic proportions, as never seen or lived before in the US", said Carlos Mercander, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. "We've put billions and billions of dollars into Puerto Rico, and it was a very tough one".

An survey, carried out by the government of the USA territory and presented to Congress earlier this month, put the death toll at 1,427 above normal, but concluded that it can not say for sure how many of those actually died as a result of the storm.

News organizations and some members of Congress have raised questions about the official death toll in Puerto Rico, which had remained at 64 for months. In the second phase, the researchers plan to focus on the causes of death. "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job", Bush said at the time. The doctors they interviewed said they were not aware of those guidelines.

John Mutter, a professor at Columbia University who researches disaster management, said death certificates are "critical" to determining what is attributable to the hurricane.