Puerto Rico corrects Hurricane Maria death toll to 20 times its original estimate

Hurricane Maria damage in Puerto Rico.
(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Puerto Rico's government is finally acknowledging a Hurricane Maria death toll that's far closer to reality.

In the wake of last year's devastating storm, Puerto Rico said that only an estimated 64 deaths had resulted, despite every other calculation being far larger. A government report published Thursday bumps that number more than 20 times higher to 1,427 fatalities — and that's only deaths directly related to Maria's damage.

The island's government was slammed for underestimating its death count after the September 2017 storm, especially as continued power outages slowed medical care for months, per The New York Times. News outlets mapped numbers 10 times as large in the months after the storm, and the New England Journal of Medicine estimated the death count could've reached 4,500 by May 2018. But the same outages that killed more Puerto Ricans likely also kept the island's medical examiner from investigating and reporting more storm-related deaths, the Times says.

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Thursday's report, submitted by the island territory to Congress along with a request for billions more in aid, recognizes Puerto Rico's initial shortcomings and estimates hurricane damage actually cost 1,427 lives. Anywhere from 800 to 8,000 deaths also resulted from "delayed or interrupted health care" after the storm, the report guesses. These numbers are closer to actuality, the Times says, though the Puerto Rican government has commissioned George Washington University's Milken Institute of Public Health to calculate a more accurate number.

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Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn is a graduate of Syracuse University, with degrees in magazine journalism and information technology, along with hours to earn another degree after working at SU's independent paper The Daily Orange. She's currently recovering from a horse addiction while living in New York City, and likes to share her extremely dry sense of humor on Twitter.