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Puerto Rican governor calls for recount of hurricane dead

By Danielle Haynes
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló ordered a thorough investigation of each death since Hurricane Maria to determine if the natural disaster played a direct or indirect role. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/97e4481827a18b8b3350d142ef6bec6d/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló ordered a thorough investigation of each death since Hurricane Maria to determine if the natural disaster played a direct or indirect role. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Monday ordered a full recount of the island's death toll from Hurricane Maria after independent analyses indicated more people may have died than officially reported.

The government's official toll from the September hurricane is 64 people. But investigations by multiple news outlets and the Center for Investigative Journalism indicated an additional 985 people died in the 40 days after the hurricane compared to the same period of time in 2016. The analyses used data from the Puerto Rico Demographic Registry.

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Rosselló said he "welcomed" the investigations but that the government should conduct its own probe to determine if the increased deaths were directly or indirectly related to Hurricane Maria.

"We cannot base any official fatality related to the hurricane county on statistical analysis," he said. "Every life is more than a number, and every death must have a name and vital information attached to it, as well as an accurate accounting of the facts related to their passing."

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He called for each death to be evaluated "independently and thoroughly."

Rosselló said he ordered the Puerto Rico Demographic Registry and the Department of Public Safety to inspect each death that has happened since the hurricane hit regardless of the official cause of death on the death certificates.

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"We always expected that the number of hurricane-related deaths would increase as we received more factual information -- not hearsay -- and this review will ensure we are correctly counting everybody," he said.

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Rosselló also called for the creation of a panel of experts to review the current process of counting deaths related to disasters.

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