An estimate from Harvard University brought to light the sad reality in Puerto Rico, revealing nearly 5,000 citizens perished as a result of Hurricane Maria last year.
This horrendous death toll, which is reportedly 70 times higher than the official government tally of 64, prompted the residents of the hurricane-ravaged island to set up a memorial outside its Capitol building in San Juan.
Thousands pairs of shoes were placed in neat rows outside the building, which served as an impromptu memorial for the lost lives.
However, people were not just mourning the catastrophe, they were also enraged at the government for not being transparent enough with the official death toll.
In 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by a devastating hurricane that had long-lasting negative impacts – including a soaring suicide rate as people, who lost all their valuables, chose to end their lives.
However, the administration of President Donald Trump has repeatedly downplayed the actual storm’s impact and gave a bungled account of the lives lost.
Last year, Trump being his typical ignorant self, bragged about the low death toll in the wake of the storm passing the island, despite having insufficient indicators of the realities on the ground.
But now, harrowing stats of casualties are emerging–and they don’t look good.
Just last week, the Puerto Rico Department of Health released data that revealed there were “at least 1,400 additional deaths on the island in the months after Hurricane Maria as compared with the same time the previous year.”
Grief-stricken residents came to the memorial with different placards. Where one visitor's sign said her father was among the dead, another woman held a sign with the word "genocide" written in Spanish.
“The government doesn’t even know how to count the dead,” read one man’s sign, according to NPR.
“4,645 dead and my daddy was one,” said another.
Moreover, Hurricane Maria didn’t just cripple communications, decimated buildings and drenched the islands with floods, it also caused an island-wide blackout and cut off access to clean drinking water for more than half of the population.
Researchers suspected the increase in death toll could be attributed to citizens being unable to access proper health care.
Banner Image Credits: REUTERS/Alvin Baez