While President Trump said Thursday he disputes the death toll from Hurricane Maria’s wrath on Puerto Rico, there are signs all over the island that point to the human cost – even a year after the deadly and destructive storm.
In San Juan, four large trailers sit outside the Institute of Forensic Science. The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed just hours after the president’s unsubstantiated tweets that 128 unidentified bodies are inside those trailers as repairs are made to the building.
The president challenged a review commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico, in which researchers from George Washington University revealed almost 3,000 people died on the island in the months after Maria.
"We stand by the science underlying our study which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria," GWU researchers said in a statement.
“Sixty-seven hospitals lost power and you had surgeons doing surgery by flashlight,” said Justo Hernandez, the deputy federal coordinating officer for FEMA. “When you have bedridden families and no power for a year, of course it can happen.”
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For Puerto Rico, the nightmare that was Hurricane Maria lasted long after the storm clouds lifted. The island’s most vulnerable residents – the sick and the elderly – were most at risk.
Ilda Ruiz died three months after the hurricane.
“She was doing good and after the hurricane she went back and back and back,” said her husband Oscar Reyes. Ruiz contracted pneumonia after Maria and with no power to her specialized bed, she developed sores that cut her skin down to the bone.
While President Trump blamed Democrats for the high death toll, Ruiz’s family blames their loss only on the storm itself and a response that failed them.
Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez has visited Puerto Rico several times since Hurricane Maria hit. Click or tap here to see more pictures from her latest visit to the island.
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