Harvard Study: Hurricane Maria Death Toll 4645, Not 64

Hurricane Maria killed directly or indirectly more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico, more than 70 times the toll recorded by officials, a new study has suggested.

"The mortality remained high through the end of December 2017, and one-third of the deaths were attributed to delayed or interrupted health care".

When the researchers extrapolated those mortality rates to the population of Puerto Rico, they calculated that the number of hurricane-related deaths was somewhere between 793 and 8498.

The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico - which stands at just 64 according to the government of the still struggling US territory - has been widely regarded as a serious underestimate.

According to NPR, the team forewent finding and counting dead bodies for a more informative approach-surveying 3,299 randomly chosen households over the course of three weeks, interviewing citizens about their experiences, and garnering an estimate from there. Yet the official government count still stands at 64. Researchers said those results were likely conservative. Left out, however, were potentially thousands of individuals who died from the longer-term effects of the storm.

The federal government has faced serious criticisms for its response to the disaster, as Puerto Rico continues to make a slow recovery. "Hurricane-related migration was substantial", they wrote. That means there was at least 0.9 of an additional death per 1000 people in 2017, and perhaps as many as 10 extra deaths per 1000 people.

The researchers used these responses to calculate that between September 20 and December 31, there were about 14.3 deaths per 1000 Puerto Ricans.

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There is a wide margin for error in the study authored by Buckee.

Most respondents cited an inability to get medicine and the inability to use respiratory and other equipment that relies on electricity as threats to health. That is why we commissioned The George Washington University to carry out a thorough study on the number of fatalities caused by Hurricane Maria which will be released soon.

"On average, households went 84 days without electricity, 64 days without water, and 41 days without cellular telephone coverage", the report added.

"It's really commendable that the researchers are providing as much detail as they're doing in their study", he said.

"When I was in Puerto Rico, everyone felt there was likely an underestimate", said Fortuna, who took a two-week trip to the island to deliver medical supplies.

The Harvard study says the Puerto Rican and U.S. governments did not provide adequate services - including electrical power and medical assistance - after the hurricane.

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