In the aftermath of February’s winter storm, the state reported 151 official deaths, but a recent study by BuzzFeed News revealed that the real toll is almost four or five times what has been officially acknowledged.
The constant outages, freezing temperatures, and lack of access to running water had a fatal impact on people who were suffering from chronic conditions, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and kidney problems, as most of the equipment these people needed for survival, did not stand a chance without power.
However, people who were enduring these medical vulnerabilities and died after experiencing power difficulties were not deaths attributed to the winter storm and ultimately not reported as such.
The data analysis carried out by Buzzfeed News came from a statistical model used to predict expected deaths in any week, given long-term and seasonal trends. It suggested that between 426 and 978 more people than expected died in Texas in the week ending February 20 alone, estimating that 702 people were killed by the storm that week.
This staggering difference between official numbers and the statistical predictions shows negligence in preventing the grid’s collapse and a failure from authorities to accurately report human casualties.
“There appears to be a clear jump in deaths following the winter storm in mid-February that defies trends in Texas,” said Steven Woolf of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Many people from the 702 estimate that lost their lives, could still be alive today. The inaccuracy of their death certificates still poses economic challenges for their family members and loved ones, as federal assistance cannot be claimed under the reported circumstances.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, has also seen a number of lawsuits alleging negligent homicide, as the failing grid has been claimed to lead to wrongful deaths.
Governor Abbott warned about the possibility of power outages while assuring the Texas government could cope with the storm.
However, he failed to include in his warning, that after the similar winter storm of 2011 they never required gas operators to weatherize their infrastructure.