According to a Harvard study published Tuesday, the death toll caused by Hurricane Maria likely exceeds 5,000. Authorities in Puerto Rico originally estimated that 64 people died after Maria hit the island on Sept. 20. The storm destroyed buildings and knocked out power to most of the U.S. territory, which is home to more than 3 million people. The Harvard study found that 4,645 more people died between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, 2017, than in same period in 2016. Yet, researchers calculate there is a 95 percent likelihood the death toll was somewhere between about 800 and 8,500 people with 5,000 a likely figure.
The research team randomly selected 3,299 households in Puerto Rico for the study.
Over 4,600 people died because of Hurricane Maria and its devastation across Puerto Rico last year, a Harvard study found. https://t.co/tyREeP5ShD
The official government death toll stands at 64. pic.twitter.com/arDEdbKGuc
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 29, 2018
Those homes reported a total of 38 deaths, scientists then extrapolated the findings to the island’s total population of 3.4 million people to estimate the number of deaths. Researchers then subtracted fatalities recorded during that same period in 2016 and concluded that the mortality rate in Puerto Rico had jumped 62 percent in the three months after Hurricane Maria.
The Harvard study notes that in Puerto Rico every disaster-related death must be confirmed by the Institute of Forensic Sciences.
— NEJM (@NEJM) May 29, 2018
Currently only bodies that are brought to San Juan or were confirmed by a medical examiner traveling to the area are counted. Indirect deaths resulting from worsening of chronic conditions or from delayed medical treatments are not considered, according to the study.
One of the most out spoken people in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz.
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) May 29, 2018
In a series of tweets she said “There are many deaths caused by poor crisis management,” Adding in another post, “It took too long to understand the need for an appropriate response was NOT about politics but about saving lives.”
Many on social media are angry at the U.S. government’s slow response to the disaster.
It was obvious at the time but since most of the public has moved on, it's worth recalling that Hurricane Maria and the government's negligent, racist response to it is the actual worst thing to happen in this country since Trump took office.
— David Klion 🔥 (@DavidKlion) May 29, 2018
Back in October, President Donald Trump told Puerto Rican officials they should be “very proud” that hundreds of people didn’t die after Hurricane Maria as they did in “a real catastrophe like Katrina.” Hurricane Katrina killed 1,833 people in 2005.