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The official death count from 2017’s hurricanes in Puerto Rico now stands at 1427.


The New York Times reports that the Government of Puerto Rico is now admitting that more than 1400 people died as a result of the two catastrophic hurricanes (Maria and Irma) that hit the island in late September and early October of 2017. Hitherto, the official death count for Hurricane Maria stood at 64.

That low number, much criticized by analysts, only counted people directly killed in the wake of the storm. But the normal procedure in weather emergencies is to count not only direct deaths but indirect deaths due to the disruption of normal life. As it happens, the excess deaths from the combination of Hurricanes Maria and Irma is unusually high because of the collapse of the island’s infrastructure they precipitated.

“In a report to Congress detailing a $139 billion reconstruction plan, the territory’s government said that the additional deaths resulted from the effects of a storm that led to a ‘cascading failures’ in infrastructure across the island of 3.3 million people,” an Associated Press report notes. “Hurricane Maria, as well as Hurricane Irma two weeks later, knocked out power and water to the island and caused widespread flooding that left many sick and elderly people unable to get medical treatment.”

The current figure is 1427 deaths but that will likely be revised when George Washington University’s school of public health, which is working on a report for the Puerto Rican government, releases its analysis later this month. An earlier report from Harvard University offered a much higher assessment, saying that number could range from 800 to 8,500, with the most likely number being more than 4,600.