Puerto Rico Orders A Recount Of The Official Death Toll Following Hurricane Maria

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A week and a half after the New York Times and Puerto Rican journalists published independent reviews suggesting the country’s post-Hurricane Maria death toll was much higher than the official count, the United States territory is seeking a recount. According to the Times, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló has ordered an official review of the government’s prior tally, followed by a subsequent recount of the actual total number of deaths stemming from Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

The proposed review will account for deaths due to “natural causes” that occurred after Hurricane Maria struck the island on September 20th. Not all of these deaths can be attributed to the devastation, of course, but considering the territory’s struggle to repair its power grid and other basic utilities, many suspect the previous death toll doesn’t account for as much as it should:

“This is about more than numbers, these are lives: real people, leaving behind loved ones and families,” Mr. Rosselló said in a statement.

The governor acknowledged on Monday that the death toll “may be higher than the official count certified to date” — an apparent about-face for his administration, which has spent months stubbornly defending its counting method, even as it became obvious that it did not reflect the unusually high death rate in Puerto Rico after the storm.

Aside from the Times‘ own independent review, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism determined 1,065 more people had died following Hurricane Maria’s September landfall — 13 more than the Times. Meanwhile (in November), CNN revealed at least 499 more deaths than previously reported were possibly due to the hurricane, according to funeral homes managing the situation on the island.

(Via New York Times)