More shocking news coming from Puerto Rico as the country’s government reveals something about hundreds of their own people: they died without finding out, for certain, the proper cause of death.
According to BuzzFeed News, on Friday (October 27), since Hurricane Maria made landfall, over 900 bodies were allowed to be cremated prior to a government medical examiner’s determination of whether they should be included in the official death toll.
Apparently all of the 911 perished from “natural causes” not related to the horrific storm, according to Karixia Ortiz Serrano, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety who is also speaking for the Institute of Forensic Sciences which determines cause of death from natural disasters. She says those designations were made not by examining bodies, but by reviewing records.
Earlier on Friday, BuzzFeed reported that directors of funeral homes and crematoriums in two municipalities were permitted by the Puerto Rican government to burn bodies of many people directors believed to have died from the hurricane and not from “natural causes.”
51 people have reportedly died from the hurricane so far. Even twenty of those bodies were later cremated.
“These reports are extremely troubling — they provide even more reason to be concerned about the accuracy of the information we’re receiving," Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren told BuzzFeed. "The Trump Administration needs to cooperate with Puerto Rican authorities and provide all the necessary resources to ensure the death toll is accurately counted.”
Serrano claims the government’s procedures haven’t changed because of the hurricane. There’s also no specific criteria as to what counts and what doesn’t when determining what a hurricane-related death actually is.
"The [medical examiner] analyzes the death summary and the death certificate, if something is suspicious they assign the case to the pathologist and they can stop the process, they can claim the body and/or call the families for an interview," Ortiz told the news website.
In a news conference on Friday night, Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rosselló also addressed the suspicious lack of review of the cremated bodies.
"I didn't know the number, but certainly some of the deaths could have been for natural causes," he told reporters. "Those would obviously not be counted with the deaths that were a direct or indirect product of the hurricane."
On Saturday, Héctor M. Pesquera, secretary of the Department of Public Safety, reiterated that all cremations in Puerto Rico must be authorized by the Institute of Forensic Sciences.
"During the process, several documents are analyzed: the death summary, the death certificate, the ballot, the medical summary or a document that that certifies and evidence the death cause, and the form that the family completes for requesting a cremation," Pesquera told BuzzFeed. "This form also establishes if the family member agrees or not with the circumstance of death.”
Apparently, there were “no suspicious” at the time of evaluation stopping cremations for the 911 people who died, according to the department.