Puerto Rico Admits Hurricane Death Toll Was 20 Times Higher Than Initially Reported
Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people in Puerto Rico, a number almost 20 times higher than initial reports indicated, according to a report the island published Thursday.
The report outlines the island’s response to the storm and what it intends to do to strengthen its economy and infrastructure moving forward. It also details the actual death toll, which dwarfed by magnitudes the official count reported in 2017.
“Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher,” the report notes. “That estimate was later revised to 1,427.”
The revised death toll figure is unofficial, but it is a “realistic” number, Pedro Cerame, a spokesman for the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration, told The New York Times Thursday.
“We don’t want to say it out loud or publicize it as an official number,” he said. “The official number will come, and it could be close. But until we see the study, and have the accuracy, we won’t be able to recognize the number as official.”
While the number is higher than previously reported, it is still much lower than those published in a Harvard University study in May. (RELATED: The Death Toll On Puerto Rico From Hurricane Maria Is 73 Times Higher Than Officially Reported, Harvard Study Says)
Harvard researchers surveyed thousands of random households across Puerto Rico and estimated, with 95 percent confidence, at least 4,645 people died on the island from Sept. 20 through Dec. 31, 2017, for reasons related to the hurricane, according to the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.