(CNSNews.com) – The George Washington University study that estimated more than 3,000 people died from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year includes direct and indirect deaths, but FEMA Director Brock Long told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that researchers should be focused on how many people died directly from the storm because of the wind, water, waves, and building collapse.
Long was asked whether he believed the study by GWU’s Milken Institute of Public Health was done to make President Donald Trump look bad as the president claims.
“I don’t know why the studies were done,” Long said. “I mean, I think what we're trying to do, in my opinion, what we've got to do is figure out why people die, from direct deaths, which is the wind, the water, and the waves, you know, buildings collapsing, which is probably where the 65 number came from.
“And then there's indirect deaths. So, the George Washington study looked at what happened six months after the fact, and you know, what happens is -- and even in this event, you might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people have heart attacks due to stress,” he said.
“They fall off their house trying to fix their roof. They die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the stoplights weren't working. You know the other thing that goes on, there's all kinds of studies on this that we take a look at. Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can't blame spousal abuse, you know, after a disaster on anybody,” Long said. The GWU study itself doesn’t mention domestic violence or any other specific cause of death for indirect storm-related deaths.
A 2005 World Health Organization report said there was a connection between natural disasters and violence, specifically domestic violence and child abuse.
“Increases in intimate partner violence levels have been reported in the Philippines after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch, in the USA after the Loma Prieta earthquake and the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, and in several refugee camps worldwide.
“Women who were living in a violent relationship before the disaster may experience violence of increasing severity post-disaster, as they may be separated from family, friends and other support systems that previously offered them some measure of protection. After a disaster these women may be forced to rely on a perpetrator for survival or access to services.
“Displaced women and children are often at risk of sexual violence as they try to meet their basic needs. Rape of women and children collecting water and firewood has been reported in refugee camps in Guinea and the United Republic of Tanzania,” the WHO report stated.
The University of Missouri’s “Disasters and Domestic Violence” fact sheet also noted a correlation between natural disasters and an increase in domestic violence.
“After Hurricane Andrew in Miami, domestic violence calls to the community helpline increased by 50%,” the fact sheet said. “Following the 1993 floods in Missouri, the average state rate of turning away persons seeking services at domestic violence shelters increased 111% compared to the preceding year. Following Hurricane Katrina, domestic violence increased by 45%.”