San Juan, May 30: Hurricane Maria killed more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico, 70 times the official death toll of 64, the media reported on Wednesday.
A Harvard University study estimated that a third of deaths after September’s hurricane were due to interruptions in medical care caused by power cuts and broken road links, reports the BBC.
The Harvard researchers said interviews conducted in Puerto Rico suggested a 60 per cent increase in mortality in the three months after the storm.
They contacted more than 3,000 randomly selected households between January and March in 2018 and asked about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death.
The experts said that an accurate count was complicated by the widespread devastation wreaked by the storm.
The Puerto Rico government said it “always expected the number to be higher than what was previously reported”.
Carlos Mercader from Puerto Rico’s Federal Affairs Administration said he welcomed the Harvard survey. “The magnitude of this tragic disaster caused by Hurricane Maria resulted in many fatalities,” he said.
He added that the island’s authorities had also commissioned George Washington University to study the number of deaths and these findings would be released soon, reports the BBC.
“Both studies will help us better prepare for future natural disasters and prevent lives from being lost,” he said.