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Frances Robles @FrancesRobles
, 18 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
THREAD: It was pretty clear in the days after Hurricane Maria that people were getting sick and dying more than usual. I met people whose relatives ran out of oxygen and died, contracted bacteria from rat urine, or couldn't get dialysis.
Even when the government said all hospitals were open, General Buchanan, who led U.S. military efforts in Puerto Rico, said to me: "Define open." And he was right: I found hospitals that weren't taking new patients or only taking pregnant women. Or that had no air conditioning.
Then I attended a press conference in Puerto Rico, where PR government officials insisted that it was basically a coincidence that nearly 500 more people had died of "natural causes" in September 2017 versus 2016.
If 8 elderly people had died in a nursing home in South Florida during the Irma blackout, how could that not have occurred in Puerto Rico? I did not buy it.
I met people whose infants died in the same I.C.U., which had no air conditioning.
My trip to the largest funeral home in Ponce drove it home for me. The funeral director said he had seen triple the number of clients since the storm.
At one point he went to a hospital to pick up a body, and the hospital said: "Wait, I have seven more."
This is serious business. What if you had an elderly grandparent in Puerto Rico? Wouldn't you need to know which nursing homes were equipped to handle the disaster? Which hospitals had the right generators?
My uncle's insulin has been outside the refrigerator for months now. Can diabetics survive that? Diabetes was one of the leading causes of death in Puerto Rico in Sept and Oct.
I asked Héctor Pesquera, secretary of public safety in Puerto Rico whether he had a moral obligation to investigate the surge in natural deaths. He basically said no. "People die in the month that they die," he said.
The stance surprised me. I remember Pesquera from my days as a cub cops reporter in Miami -- he was the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI. I do believe that in Miami, and elsewhere, they would investigate.
The PR government started looking into more cases once media outlets like CNN investigated. The official death toll inched up to 62.
But our review, conducted by @kenandavis shows that compared to 2015 and 2016, more than 1,000 additional people died.
And the deaths continued in October. The numbers are sure to keep climbing -- because the power is still out in most people's houses.
I went back through my notes to see what was happening on certain days. On 9/25, the day the governor said a humanitarian crisis was looming, 135 people died, more than double 2015.
It's December now, but this is not over. Puerto Rico is still generating less than 70 percent of its capacity. Meaning LOTS of people still do not have electricity.
I hope you take the time to read the graphic.
People are dying of infections, diabetes and Alzheimers at alarming numbers.
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