Far higher death toll 'estimate' on Hurricane Maria no surprise to Puerto Ricans in SA

Puerto Rico admits death toll may be 1,427, not 64

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A report to Congress shows the official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria nearly a year ago could exceed 1,400 -- far higher than the official estimate of 64.

"Even now, we don't have the correct numbers. I believe it's so much more," said Migdala Aponte, of the Association of Puerto Ricans in San Antonio. "We needed to be honest with the world and with our own people."

Aponte said from the beginning, those who lived through the hurricane and the chaos it left behind knew the official death toll was wrong.

Without power and a lack of clean water, she said people with serious illnesses were at risk of dying. 

Aponte described how impassable roads delayed an ambulance from reaching a patient, and once it did, the patient was taken to a hospital without electricity, so he was diverted to another hospital.

"By the time they got there, he had already passed," Aponte said. "So don't tell me it's not related."

Aponte also said in remote areas hit by mudslides, people were forced to bury victims wherever they could. She said many victims remain unidentified in morgues.

Aponte said under-estimating the death toll may have cost Puerto Ricans needed government relief.

"They have not been fair to us," Aponte said. 

An outspoken critic of hurricane relief efforts, San Juan, Puerto Rico, mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, will be in San Antonio this weekend. 

Cruz will be honored Saturday by the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists at the organization's 20th annual scholarship and awards gala, where she also will be the keynote speaker. 

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