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Puerto Rican officials confirm Hurricane Maria death toll exceeds 1,400

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
August 10, 2018, 8:47:00 AM EDT

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Nearly one year after Hurricane Maria’s devastating impacts on Puerto Rico, the United States territory’s government has stated in an online report that more than 1,400 people perished in the Category 4 storm’s aftermath.

The staggering figure is more than 20 times the official death toll, which stands at 64, according to National Public Radio (NPR). Maria initially took about a dozen lives when it swept through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017.

AccuWeather predicted shortly after Maria’s impact that the Puerto Rico death toll would become much higher than initial official number provided by the government. 

In a draft of the report requesting $139 billion in recovery funds from Congress, the Puerto Rican government acknowledged that 1,427 more people died in the final quarter of 2017 compared to the same four-month period in 2016, according to the New York Times.

Hurricane Maria death toll - AP Photo

In this June 1, 2018 file photo, a child shines a light on hundreds of shoes at a memorial in front of the Puerto Rico Capitol in San Juan for those killed by Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico has conceded that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people on the island last year, and not just the 64 in the official death toll. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)


The figures mentioned in the report, titled “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation,” originated from death registry statistics released in June, but Puerto Rican officials hadn’t acknowledged them publicly until recently.

The government has faced criticism for inaccurately counting the number of Puerto Ricans who died in the months following Maria as a result of lack of power and access to hospitals.

In December 2017, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló ordered a recount of the official Maria death toll in light of mounting evidence that the low figure was a "gross misrepresentation,” Vox reported.

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Numerous analyses have been conducted on what the actual hurricane-related death toll in Puerto Rico might be, including a New York Times report released last December as well as a study from George Washington University that was commissioned by Gov. Rosselló following the New York Times analysis.

A spokesman for the Puerto Rican government’s Federal Affairs Administration stated that the official death toll won’t be altered until the report from George Washington University is released.

The report from the university’s school of public health is due to be released sometime in August, according to the New York Times.

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