The official death toll on Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to strike the Caribbean island in almost a century, was raised on Tuesday from just 64 to nearly 3,000, based on a study ordered by the governor of the US territory.
The report found that an estimated 2,975 deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year. The figure was derived from comparisons between predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after the storm.
The emergency response to Maria became highly politicized as the Trump administration was criticised as being slow to recognise the gravity of the devastation and too sluggish in providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico, an island of more than 3 million residents. The study, conducted by George Washington University`s Milken Institute School of Public Health and released Tuesday, also found that the risk of death from the hurricane was substantially higher for poor people and elderly men.