According to a recent report, a new study suggests that the official death toll in Puerto Rico of 64 after last year’s hurricane was “a substantial underestimate.” Scientists at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggest that the actual death toll from Hurricane Maria is “in excess of” 4,645.
NPR reports that as opposed to the conventional method of finding and counting dead bodies, they elected to survey 3,299 randomly chosen households over the course of three weeks, interviewing citizens about their experiences, and garnering an estimate from there. The researchers claim that there’s a 95 percent likelihood the official death toll lies somewhere between 800 and 8,500 people, with 5,000 seeming most accurate.
The 3,299 households were asked about displacement, loss of infrastructure, and causes of death. The researchers reached their excess death figures by comparing their estimates of post-hurricane mortality rates with the official rates for the same period in 2016 which presented a discrepancy of 62 percent.
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine today, concludes that “the number of excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is more than 70 times the official estimate.”
Researchers say even though the study spanned three weeks and ended December 31 2017, hurricane-related deaths are still likely occurring.