IPK Director Eric Klinenberg Pens NY Times Op-Ed: “Puerto Rico’s Actual Death Toll”

In the November 13, 2017 issue of the New York Times, IPK Director Eric Klinenberg writes an opinion piece on Hurricane Maria’s effect on Puerto Rico and the Trump Administration’s response. Read an excerpt below and the full piece here.

“Early last month, President Trump visited Puerto Rico on a trip designed to signal the federal government’s recognition of the unfolding catastrophe from Hurricane Maria. When the hurricane crashed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, it cut off electricity to nearly all of the island’s 3.4 million residents, destroyed 80 percent of the agricultural supply, knocked out cellular phone service, blocked roads, decimated homes and left at least 1.7 million people without potable water.

Such extensive breakdowns in what engineers call “lifeline systems” would have been devastating in any American state or city. Puerto Rico, a bankrupt commonwealth where nearly half of all residents live below the poverty line and some 650,000 are age 65 or older, was especially vulnerable.

But instead of pledging support for a large-scale emergency relief plan, Mr. Trump declared that Hurricane Maria was not a “real catastrophe” and complained that the storm had “thrown our budget a little out of whack.” He announced that the official death toll from the hurricane, merely 16 at the time, was the true measure of the government’s response. “We saved a lot of lives,” he boasted, and then flew back home.

The statements were stunningly tone deaf. Morgues and funeral homes were calling for help dealing with the bodies piling up around their facilities. Scores of people who lived and died alone were sure to be discovered when roads reopened. Nearly everyone, regardless of class or status, was stranded, suffering and afraid. But federal officials, following Mr. Trump’s lead, continued to insist that the mortality level was minuscule.

Now that narrative has collapsed.” Read on in the NY Times.

Image: US Department of Defense

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