Puerto Rico admits over 1,400 people were killed by Hurricane Maria

RICARDO ARDUENGO  AFP

The island's government conceded this news in a report filed to Congress earlier this week.

Almost a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island, Puerto Rico finally acknowledged that more than 1,400 people were killed in the storm - not the 64 it had included in the official death toll.

But now, the government of Puerto Rico is revising the 64-person death toll it declared in December, estimating that more than 1,400 people died as a result of the devastating hurricane - or 400 short of Hurricane Katrina's death toll - raising questions about the effectiveness of the federal response to the hurricane and its aftermath.

Prior to this report, the government's official storm death toll was 64.

The administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello stopped updating its official death toll months ago and ordered an investigation amid reports that the number was substantially undercounted.


People walk in a flooded street next to damaged houses in Catano town, in Juana Matos, Puerto Rico, on September 21, 2017.

"Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher", it said in the report. But they have long publicly said that far more people died due to indirect effects of the powerful storm.

But a more exact number has been a matter of debate that the government has sought to end by commissioning an academic study due out in coming weeks.

This new report makes Maria the second-deadliest hurricane to strike Puerto Rico since records began in the mid-19th century, according to data from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division.

Most of the deaths occurred not in the initial storm on September 20, but in the ensuing days and weeks when the island-wide electricity outage and roads blocked by downed power lines and other debris made it hard to move around and emergency services were stretched beyond their capabilities.

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