Hurricane Maria killed an estimated 2,975 people in Puerto Rico, an analysis commissioned by the island's governor found Tuesday.
Soon after the storm hit in September 2017, officials said it had directly caused just 64 deaths. Outside reports that included deaths caused by resulting power outages and other factors put the number much higher, around 4,500. Earlier this month, the Puerto Rican government issued a new report, estimating that 1,427 had died and acknowledging that it had low-balled the initial number.
Now, the latest analysis has studied deaths between September 2017 and February 2018, including a count of all "excess mortality" since the hurricane, not just Puerto Ricans who died due to an immediate physical effect of the storm like structural damage or flooding. CBS News reports that the study also sought to explain why Puerto Rico had issued such low estimates initially. The report found that local physicians were improperly trained in how to handle death certificates, leading them to mischaracterize many deaths as unrelated to the hurricane, when in reality the storm created conditions that led to increased mortality in 40 percent of the island's municipalities.
"The reality is that we take this very seriously," Carlos Mercader, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, told CBS. "2,975 — it's 2,975 people who suffered." Read more at CBS News. Summer Meza