Trying To Pinpoint Hurricane’s True Toll, Researchers Say 1,139 Died In Puerto Rico

The question of how many people perished after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has stirred controversy because of the wide discrepancies between the territory’s official count and independent reports. Now, two researchers have added a new tally that uses the island government’s own data but far outpaces its death estimate.

Their analysis found an increase of 1,139 deaths over what would be expected in Puerto Rico in the 2½ months following the storm. The Category 4 storm lashed the American territory last September, displacing tens of thousands of residents, destroying the electric grid and downing communications services. The National Hurricane Center estimates the storm caused $90 billion in damages in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The new count comes in a research letter published Thursday in the journal JAMA that compared death certificates obtained from the Puerto Rican government to the historical average for deaths over a three-month period.

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