Puerto Rico government releases data on number of fatalities after Hurricane Maria

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
June 13, 2018, 9:27:32 AM EDT

The government of Puerto Rico on Tuesday released additional data on the number of deaths that occurred on the island in the wake of devastating Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

CNN and the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico had been suing the government for death certificates and other records following the storm, which struck on Sept. 20.

According to CNN, government officials planned to make at least 1,000 death certificates available on Tuesday and 24,000 available over the course of five days.

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The release of new data comes several weeks after a Harvard study estimated that there were more than 4,600 “excess deaths” on the island from Sept. 20 to Dec. 31. A likely number, the study said, was around 5,000.

The official death toll provided by government officials remains at 64, which the study authors called a “substantial underestimate.”

hurricane maria death toll

In this Sept. 26, 2017 file photo, trees felled by Hurricane maria rest on tombs at a cemetery in Lares, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

The government says it believes more than 64 people died in the storm, but it will not raise its official death toll until a study by George Washington University that’s being conducted on behalf of the government is completed, according to the Associated Press.

According to the AP, a primary factor in the discrepancy in the death toll is the fact that there is no uniform definition between the federal government and U.S. states and territories on what constitutes a storm-related death.

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