Does Maria count as a ‘real catastrophe’ now, Mr. President?


The Post’s View

May 29 at 7:58 PM

A NEW report by independent public-health researchers estimates that at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Consider that number. Contrast it with those who died from Katrina (almost 2,000) and those killed in the 9/11 attacks (almost 3,000). Remember President Trump’s visit to the stricken island in the storm’s aftermath, tossing out paper towels and telling Puerto Rican officials they should be “very proud” that hundreds didn’t die from Maria as in a “real catastrophe like Katrina.”

Think how many lives might have been saved if Puerto Rico’s devastation had been handled with the seriousness and urgency it deserved. Ask yourself whether Mr. Trump would have thought — or acted — differently if the American citizens who were affected had lived not in Puerto Rico but in Texas or Tennessee.

study published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine by scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions takes aim at the official government count of 64 dead. It suggests the actual number of deaths — many caused by interruption and delays in medical care — is more than 70 times higher than that reported by Puerto Rico officials. Researchers acknowledged their estimate, based on calculations from surveys of randomly chosen households, is imprecise and further study is needed. But the report, along with earlier reporting and analysis by the New York Times, paints a devastating picture of how people, particularly the elderly and infirm, were imperiled by long-standing losses of electricity, water and communications.

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