By Caribbean News Now contributor
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Maria killed far more people in Puerto Rico than the official estimates, according to a new study, which puts the death toll on the island from September 2017 through February 2018 an estimated 2,975.
The independent analysis was commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico and conducted by researchers at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, CBS News reported.
To arrive at the 2,975 figure, the study looked at historical death patterns from 2010 to 2017 to estimate how many people would have died had Hurricane Maria not hit the island. That figure was then compared to the actual number of deaths from September 2017 through February 2018 – obtained in records provided by the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Records division of the Puerto Rico Department of Health – to determine what the report describes as the “estimate of excess mortality due to the hurricane.”
“Overall, we estimate that 40% of municipalities experienced significantly higher mortality in the study period than in the comparable period of the previous two years,” the report says.
Puerto Rico’s government initially reported 64 deaths blamed on the hurricane. Since then, several studies have indicated the actual death toll was much higher, though researchers have arrived at a range of different figures.
In May, a Harvard University study said Maria was likely responsible for more than 4,600 deaths from the day of the storm, September 20, until December 31, 2017.
Earlier this month, Puerto Rico said in a report to Congress there were 1,427 more deaths “than normal” in the four months after Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, which churned on a path just north of the island two weeks before Maria hit. That report said, however, those 1,427 deaths “may or may not be attributable to the hurricanes.”
The latest study says that from the period ranging from September to December 2017 alone, there were an excess of 2,098 deaths, and 2,975 from September 2017 through February 2018.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has accepted the findings of the report and is raising the official death from the storm from 64 to 2,975.
Rosselló is expected to sign an executive order that will create a commission to implement recommendations made in the report.
Commenting on the new study, Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., said, “That the Trump Administration ever dared to claim that only 64 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria insults the intelligence of any rational person. And the truly sad part is that the figures presented by George Washington University’s Milken School of Public Health may still be underestimating how many died as a result of this natural disaster.
“It is unconscionable how President Trump and his administration responded to Hurricane Maria. This is President Trump’s Katrina. The administration’s failure throughout the ongoing recovery of Puerto Rico, how they have treated the American citizens of Puerto Rico compared to those in Texas or Florida, is a stain on this nation.”