The number of people who died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria was at least 70 times higher than the official death toll, according to a study published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study estimates that 5,740 people died as a result of the storm, rather than the 64 people counted in the Puerto Rican government’s official death toll, which was last updated on Dec. 4. The government’s count came under suspicion first by the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Reporting and BuzzFeed News just days after the hurricane devastated the island.
“Our results indicate that the official death count of 64 is a substantial underestimate of the true burden of mortality after Hurricane Maria,” the researchers wrote, adding that their findings support press reports saying as much.
The researchers from Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health worked with graduate students at the Carlos Albizu University and Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico, and others in Colorado and Boston, to conduct a survey of 3,299 randomly selected households in Puerto Rico — about 9,522 people.