Puerto Rico governor raises Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975

Puerto Rico governor raises Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975

Puerto Rico governor raises Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975

Governor Ricardo Rossello raised the toll to 2,975 after a government-commissioned study found deaths from the storm were severely undercounted.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - An estimated 2,975 people died in the six months after Hurricane Maria as a result of the storm, with the elderly and impoverished most affected, according to a long-awaited independent study ordered by the US territory's government that was released Tuesday.

A previous study by researchers at Harvard University set the death toll from the hurricane at a higher 4,645 but reflected the opinion of the GW SPH study as it noted the numbers "underscore the inattention of the US Government to the frail infrastructure of Puerto Rico".

It is topped by the great hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in 1900, killing at least 8,000 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "That's unusual in the USA after a disaster".

Puerto Rican Bethzaida Rosado said she didn't believe the government was ready for the storm, and is still angry about the death of her 76-year-old mother.

The latest findings - accepted by the island's authorities - were made in a report by researchers from George Washington University.

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The Caribbean island is home to 3.3 million U.S. citizens, some 8 percent of which have since left the island, the study said.

There is no national standard for how to count disaster-related deaths. That figure was likely as low due to officials strictly classifying only certain deaths - such as those caused by collapsing buildings, flying debris, floods and drownings - as caused by the hurricane.

They also said those most at risk for death were poor people, and the elderly.

Days after the Hurricane Maria hit the territory, President Donald Trump infamously said that everyone can "be very proud" about Puerto Rico's recovery efforts, since if compared to a "real catastrophe like Katrina" where a "tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died".

The researchers' findings had been long-awaited.

The study found that all age and income groups were affected by the sharp rise in mortality, but that the risk of death was markedly higher among the island's poor.

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A woman looks as her husband climbs down a ladder at a partially destroyed bridge, after Hurricane Maria hit the area in September, in Utuado, Puerto Rico, November 9, 2017.

"Others expressed reluctance to relate deaths to hurricanes due to concern about the subjectivity of this determination and about liability", the report said.

Puerto Rico is still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

For the study, the researchers reviewed mortality data from July 2010 to February 2018.

However, they did not share details of their methodology, saying those will be released if the study is published in a scientific journal. The island is trying to restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion public debt amid a 12-year recession.

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