Puerto Rico’s government acknowledged Thursday that is has drastically undercounted the number of deaths resulting from Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. A new report shows the actual total is more than 20 times higher than the number officials have been sticking to for months.
The report, titled “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation,” says despite claims only 64 lives were lost due to Maria, the number now tops 1,400.
“Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher,” the report reads. “On June 13, the Government of Puerto Rico revealed that there were 1,427 more deaths in the four months after the hurricanes than normal (based on the previous four years), and it will update the official count after a George Washington University study is completed.”
The report adds that “estimates from other studies range from about 800 to 8,500 deaths from delayed or interrupted health care.”
Puerto Rican officials have been criticized for undercounting the number of Maria victims, particularly as the island’s power outage stretched on for months.
The report was submitted quietly to Congress this week as part of a $139 billion reconstruction plan for the island.
This week, 11 months after the storm hit the island, power was finally (almost) fully restored. Only 25 customers are still without power.