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Puerto Rico raises death toll from Hurricane Maria to 1,427

By Susan McFarland
Puerto Rico raises death toll from Hurricane Maria to 1,427
A report by Puerto Rican government officials acknowledges more than 1,427 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a sharp increase from its earlier count of 64. File Photo by Kris Grogan/U.S. Customs and Border Protection | License Photo

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- The Puerto Rican government has posted a report acknowledging 1,427 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year -- a sharp increase over the 64 it previously reported, but still far below the thousands estimated by experts.

"According to initial reports, 64 lives were lost. That estimate was later revised to 1,427," said the report, labeled as a draft dated July 8.

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Puerto Rico's final report is expected to be submitted to Congress on Thursday, requesting $139 billion in recovery funds.

Hurricane Maria struck the island Sept. 20, knocking out power for months. At first the government said only 12 people died, then later revised it to 64.

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Death registry statistics quietly released in June showed 1,427 more people died in the last four months of 2017 than the same time the year before, the New York Times reported Thursday.

In the aftermath of the storm, medical conditions such as diabetes and sepsis soared. Many people died from lack of healthcare or because there was no power to run medical equipment like dialysis and breathing machines.

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Assessments from academic scholars say the death toll is much higher than the government has reported.

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A Harvard study released in May put the toll at 4,645, with most deaths blamed on delayed medical care.

The government's report lists a number of key priorities, like re-establishing systems for reliable energy; water and transportation; improving emergency preparedness infrastructure; clarifying ownership and responsibility for infrastructure and assets; rebuilding infrastructure to meet modern codes; and upgrading communication.

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