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Puerto Rican government revises death toll from Hurricane Maria to be 46 times higher

Mother Isamar holds her 9-month-old baby Saniel at their makeshift home on Dec. 23, 2017 after being mostly destroyed by Hurricane Maria in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico government recently revised its death toll estimates for Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

New estimates by the Puerto Rican government put the death toll from Hurricane Maria in 2017 at 46 times the territorial government's original estimate.

What are the numbers?

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on the morning of Sept. 20, 2017.

Newly revised numbers from the Puerto Rican government put the death toll from Hurricane Maria at 2,975. Initial estimates from Puerto Rico's government had the number at only 64. More than 1,000 people died from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico than from Hurricane Katrina (1,833) along the Gulf Coast in 2005.

This makes Maria the deadliest storm to hit the U.S. in more than 100 years, eclipsing even the Okeechobee hurricane that hit Florida in 1928 and killed 2,500. To find a U.S. hurricane that has killed more people you have to go back to 1900 when the Great Galveston Hurricane killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people.

Why the discrepancy?

The initial estimate included only those immediately killed directly by the hurricane. However, a lack of electricity, clean water, and other resources led to thousands of deaths in the hurricane's aftermath.

The revised statistic comes from an independent analysis by George Washington University researchers commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico. Researchers looked at recorded deaths in Puerto Rico between 2010 and 2017 to determine how much those numbers increased following the hurricane.

According to the report, 40 percent of Puerto Rican municipalities “experienced significantly higher mortality in the study period than in the comparable period of the previous two years.”

The new number is still an estimate and could change as deaths on the island continue to be investigated.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello told El Nuevo Dia that the blame for the original estimate lay with doctors, according to a translation provided by the BBC.

“The responsibility for adjudicating the cause of deaths rested with the doctors,” he said. “But unfortunately there was no formal process to prepare them for this kind of devastation.”

One last thing…
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