More people are believed to have died from 9/11-related illnesses than those killed Sept. 11 in the terror attacks, the Justice Department and its Victims Compensation Fund acknowledged for the first time last week.
There were 2,996 victims killed on 9/11, while federal statistics show that 3,311 people enrolled in the CDC’s World Trade Center Health Program have died, although the agency doesn’t cite an exact cause of death.
“It is … sobering to see that more people are now believed to have died of 9/11-related illnesses than were lost on September 11, 2001,” the VCF wrote in its 20th anniversary “special report” released Sept. 7.
The VCF has issued $8.95 billion in compensation to 9/11 survivors and victims’ families, according to the report, which notes a “fairly significant increase” in claims filed by survivors in recent years, 48 percent of whom have cancer.
About 10,000 emergency personnel and civilians rely on the VCF to cover the cost of their serious health issues caused by exposure to toxins and carcinogens from the terror attacks, according to advocates for Ground Zero first-responders at an event last week.
The Victims Compensation Act was permanently extended in 2019 after cancer-stricken retired NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez gave emotional testimony before Congress pushing for the move. The extension will ensure that all eligible claims will be paid until the deadline of Oct. 1, 2090.
The FDNY was by far the first-responder organization that was hardest hit by 9/11, with 343 members killed at the World Trade Center and 253 later dying of illnesses, according to union leaders.
John Feal, a 9/11 health advocate who was a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero, said the VCF report was the first time the federal government has acknowledged more Americans have died from 9/11 medical illnesses than during the terror attacks.
But he said it comes as no surprise, adding that the number of deaths will grow exponentially in the coming years given the latency period for certain cancers.
“These 20 years have been rough on the 9/11 survivor community. But the next 10 to 20 years will be devastating. It’s going to get worse,” Feal said.
He estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 responders and other survivors exposed to contaminants from the World Trade Center site have already died.
Attorney Michael Barasch, whose law firm helps 9/11 survivors process claims for medical benefits with the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, said many of his clients have died and he expects the number of victims to grow.
“We are going to see an explosion of new cases,” Barasch told The Post.