According to official government records, 64 people were killed because of Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico last year. This is a "substantial underestimate," according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Carlos Albizu University and others calculated 4,645 Maria-related deaths.
The staggering discrepancy is due to misidentified deaths—such as the worsening of chronic illnesses due to the disintegration of power grids and essential services—and a knotty bureaucratic process of certifying disaster-related deaths. With 2018’s hurricane season looming, the study’s authors call for a review of death counts "to mobilize an appropriate response operation and account for the fate of those affected."