Official Death Toll From Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Could be Over 1,000

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – SEPT. 26, 2017: Hospital employees and nurses gather to pray for a co-worker who was critically injured in a violent attack during the chaos post-Maria hurricane. At the Centro Medico Puerto Rico (hospital), critical care cases from all over the island are brought for care. It has been a struggle to keep everything working smoothly given the damage done to infrastructure. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The official count of Hurricane Maria-related deaths in Puerto Rico is 64, but independent investigations have suggested for months that this number may be too low. In early OctoberBuzzFeed News reported that funeral homes had “dozens” more bodies than the government had acknowledged, and in November, a CNN survey of funeral homes found reports of 499 dead.

A Saturday report from The New York Times indicates the true death toll may be higher still. By comparing Puerto Rico’s normal mortality rate from previous years to the number of deaths reported in the aftermath of Maria, the Times concluded 1,052 people have died in connection to the storm.

“Before the hurricane, I had an average of 82 deaths daily,” Wanda Llovet, director of the Demographic Registry in Puerto Rico, told the Times in a November interview. “Now I have an average of 118 deaths daily.” The difference between those two figures are excess deaths the Times attributes to Maria’s destruction. Most people were not killed by the hurricane itself; many died of secondary causes like impaired medical care due to lack of electric service.

Read more about the Times’ methodology and data here.

SOURCE: The Week, Bonnie Kristian