Despite government figures, researchers claim the death toll from Hurricane Maria is nearly 1,100

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

When he visited Puerto Rico in October, Donald Trump was full of praise about the low death toll (16 people) resulting from Hurricane Maria. Since then, the reported number of deaths has climbed and is now 58. While the Puerto Rican government continues to use this number as its official count, researchers and journalists disagree. They say the number is potentially 20 times higher—and are listing a figure closer to 1,085. 

[Alexis Santos, a demographer based at Penn State and Jeffrey Howard, an independent health scientist and epidemiologist] used the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics System to compare the historical averages for September and October of the past seven years to the total number of September and October 2017 deaths recently reported by the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety to see if there were notable differences.

The results were staggering: They found that in September 2017 — the month that Maria hit — there were 518 more deaths than the recent historical average for September and 567 more deaths in October 2017 than the recent historical average for October. That’s a total of 1,085 deaths likely linked to the hurricane. And given that widespread power outages have continued into November, the number of indirect deaths from the hurricane is probably higher still.

This much higher count is in line with the beliefs of journalists and media outlets  that refuse to believe that the powerful Category 4 storm which devastated the island would have caused such a low number of deaths. Outlets such as Vox, CNN, and the Puerto Rico-based Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) have been investigating and reporting for some time now that there is much evidence to suggest that the Puerto Rican government has vastly underreported the death count.