While the government's official records say just 64 Puerto Ricans were killed by Hurricane Maria, some non-profits and publications have previously estimated that the death toll was actually closer to 1,200 when accounting for storm-related deaths.
A new scientific study conducted by researchers at Harvard published in the New England Journal of Medicine says the toll death could be as high as 5,740.
The researchers, from Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, worked with graduate students at the Carlos Albizu University and Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico, and others in Colorado and Boston, to conduct a survey of 3,299 randomly selected households in Puerto Rico — about 9,522 people.
They asked about all deaths and their causes between Sept. 20, when Hurricane Maria made landfall, and Dec. 31 of 2017.
Comparing those results with previous years’ death records, they calculated that 4,645 more people died in the final months of 2017, after the hurricane, compared with the same period the year prior — representing a 62% increase in the mortality rate after Maria.
The researchers arrived at the final figure of 5,740 by adding people who may have died isolated and alone without friends or family to report it. Even if you don't include that estimation, however, 4,645 deaths is a lot.
I've seen a lot of people compare to this Hurricane Katrina on social media this morning, but this is far worse that Katrina. If these figures are accurate, it would make Hurricane Maria at least twice if not three times more deadly than Hurricane Katrina which killed 1,833 people.
These numbers would also make Hurricane Maria (and the government neglect that followed) deadlier than the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
It's apparently just as likely this number of deaths is too low rather than too high. The researchers say their estimates are "likely to be conservative."
We may never know exactly how many people were killed by Hurricane Maria, but all available evidence tells us the toll was far higher than 64.