The study in which 4,645 deaths have been counted is noted as a possible “underestimate.”
Nearly 5,000 people died in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath in Puerto Rico, far greater than the 64 deaths counted as the storms’ official toll, according to a new study from Harvard.
The findings, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, show there were 4,645 “excess deaths” between Sept. 20, 2017, when the storm made landfall on the island, and Dec. 31, 2017. Researchers found the official death toll is a “substantial underestimate of the true burden of mortality after Hurricane Maria.”
Many of the deaths came after the storm itself as residents struggled without potable water and electricity.
The official death toll has been questioned for months.
When President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, he noted the storm’s relatively low death toll — then 16. By the end of the day, the official count had more than doubled.
A CNN survey of half the island’s funeral homes found about 500 Hurricane Maria-related deaths. That number was about nine times the official death toll. The number of deaths calculated in the new study is about 70 times the official count.
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