Faced with substantial evidence that the number of storm-related fatalities following Hurricane Maria is significantly higher than the official death toll, authorities in Puerto Rico have announced plans to reevaluate every death on the island since the hurricane hit this past September.
“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,” Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló said in a statement announcing the upcoming review.
While the official death toll stands at 64, a recent analysis by the New York Times claimed Hurricane Maria resulted in a staggering 1,052 deaths, many of which stemmed from the near-apocalyptic conditions on the ground in the days and weeks that followed. The Times reporting seems to confirm an earlier dispatch from BuzzFeed describing a massive spike in Puerto Rican cremations following the hurricane—none of which were added to the island’s official toll.
During his visit to Puerto Rico in early October, President Donald Trump crowed about the low number of recorded deaths, saying the island had been spared “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”
According to the New York Times, the planned reevaluation will necessitate individual interviews with every family member and doctor who signed death certificates since the storm to determine whether the circumstances surrounding the death in question were in any way related to the hurricane.
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