In a report released to US Congress this week by the Puerto Rican government highlighting a $139 billion reconstruction plan, they conceded that more than 1,400 people were killed as a result of Hurricane Maria, which struck the US territory about 11 months ago in September 2017. Facing criticism over their response to the storm, the government has previously kept their official death toll number at 64 people.
An official told the Associated Press Thursday that “the confirmed toll remains frozen at 64 pending a scientific review due out soon.”
Public Safety Department Secretary Hector Pesquera says that the figure of more than 1,400 “is simple math” and that “this is not the official number of deaths attributable to Hurricane Maria.”
This new, unofficial death toll includes fatalities both directly and indirectly from the storm. It notes how most occurred after Maria hit, citing prolonged power outages and inaccessibility to food and water.
There have been numerous studies and investigations into what the actual death toll from Maria was. A New York Times investigation estimated that at least 1,000 were killed, while other sources have suggested as many as 4,500. To this day, we still don’t know the exact number, but this big shift from the initial count the government issued is definitely eye-opening.
Based on data from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, Maria will likely end up being the second most deadly hurricane to affect Puerto Rico since records began in 1851. The most deadly hurricane was the Puerto Rico hurricane of 1899, which killed 3,369 people.