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Official Death Toll In Puerto Rico Once Again Challenged By Study

Aug 8, 2018

Update: The Puerto Rican government acknowledged in a preliminary draft recovery plan submitted to Congress that it is likely more than 1,400 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Another study is out that places the death toll related to Hurricane Maria much higher than the estimate originally put out by the Puerto Rican government.

The Journal of the American Medical Association determined, based on death records, that 1,139 excess deaths occurred in Puerto Rico in the wake of the storm. It followed a Harvard study released in May that had the death toll at 4,645.

“This particular survey, they did not count anyone that was affected ancillary to the hurricane directly,” said Jason Ortiz, the president of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda. “So, anyone that lost electricity and their medical care wasn’t able to get to them, those are actually not counted.”

The lower number represented in the JAMA study is still far higher than the official death toll, put at 64. Ortiz wants answers as to why the government number was so much lower.

“That’s something that is true, that we all understand happened, and now it’s time for action and accountability,” Ortiz said. “ So, we’re going to be pressuring our elected representatives to get that accountability both from the Trump administration and the administration in San Juan.”

Ortiz echoed Senator Richard Blumenthal’s recent call for a congressional hearing. He’d like it by the upcoming one-year anniversary of the storm in September.