Tags: puerto rico | hurricane maria | death toll

PR's Problematic Review of Hurricane Deaths: Examining Buried Bodies

PR's Problematic Review of Hurricane Deaths: Examining Buried Bodies
In this Sept. 29, 2017 photo, police lift the coffin of fellow officer Luis Angel Gonzalez Lorenzo, killed during the passage of Hurricane Maria when he tried to cross a river in his car, during his funeral at the cemetery in Aguada, Puerto Rico. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 21 December 2017 12:57 PM

The Puerto Rico governor's order earlier this week to review every death since Hurricane Maria is rife with several logistical problems, most acutely the physical examination of every body, CNN reports.

The official death count related to Hurricane Maria stands at 64, though a CNN review reported it to be 500 and statistical analysis by The New York Times puts it at more than 1,000 deaths.

However, Gov. Ricardo Rossello ordered physical evidence only, not statistical, but gave no details as to how his government would do that on the island, much of which is still without power.

"Every life is more than a number, and every death must have a name and vital information attached to it, as well as an accurate accounting of the facts related to their passing," Rossello said Monday.

However, Puerto Rico would need to exhume an untold amount of bodies to make an official determination, notwithstanding the bodies that were cremated.

"At this point, the bodies have been buried, and there is no way to do a thorough investigation of each individual case," Eric Klinenberg, director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University told CNN.

"That is very difficult even in the best of times, and right now (many) people still don't have power. It would require an enormous effort," Klinenberg told CNN.

Further complicating the effort of Rossello's death toll review is making a determination, now, about whether a heart attack or other natural deaths could be tied back to aftereffects of Hurricane Maria.

"'Hurricane related' may be more a matter of perception, anyway. Traumatic deaths are easier. Natural deaths are harder to accurately place in the 'hurricane-related' category as death from natural disease may occur at any time," Dr. Brian Peterson, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, told CNN.

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The Puerto Rico governor's order earlier this week to review every death since Hurricane Maria is rife with several logistical problems, most acutely the physical examination of every body, CNN reports.
puerto rico, hurricane maria, death toll
304
2017-57-21
Thursday, 21 December 2017 12:57 PM
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