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Not Even Hospitals in Puerto Rico Know How Many People Have Died

Officials might not be accounting for deaths indirectly related to Hurricane Maria, like those due to medication shortages.

by Alexa Liautaud
12 October 2017, 7:33pm

The morgue at La Concepción hospital in San Germán, Puerto Rico, can only fit three bodies at one time. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the refrigeration unit needed space for at least a dozen more.

The morgue became overfilled, said Luis Torres, an employee at the hospital, located on the southwestern side of the island from San Juan, which has received less attention. The ER did, too. Thankfully, the Puerto Rican Department of Health delivered an extra refrigeration unit that can hold up to 15 bodies.

President Trump has downplayed the scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico, where the official death toll now sits at 45. But hospitals employees, funeral directors, and healthcare volunteers in Puerto Rico who spoke to VICE News put the count much higher. They're not only overwhelmed with bodies—often whose cause of death hasn't been determined—but officials might not be accounting for deaths indirectly related to Hurricane Maria, like those due to medication shortages.

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