Nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico died from causes related to Hurricane Maria, which hammered the island about 11 months ago.
An estimated 2,975 people died on the island from September 2017 through February 2018, according to a new report from George Washington University (GWU) obtained by CBS News. The government of Puerto Rico commissioned the GWU report. The new total is thousands higher than the previous official count, which remained at 67 months after the hurricane hit.
Puerto Rico officials recognized that official death count was likely far below the real number of fatalities from the storm. Puerto Rico revised the number upward earlier this month, providing an unofficial estimate of 1,427 deaths. (RELATED: Puerto Rico Admits Hurricane Death Toll Was 20 Times Higher Than Initially Reported)
“The reality is that we take this very seriously,” Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration executive director Carlos Mercader told CBS. “2,975 — it’s 2,975 people who suffered.”
The report explains that the previous official count was low because Puerto Rican physicians in the aftermath of the storm did not know how to appropriately tally deaths attributed to the storm. The physicians counted those that died as a direct result of the hurricane, such as from flying debris or flooding, but they left out fatalities due to the effects of Maria, such as a lack of power or access to clean water, according to CBS.
The GWU report places the death count much higher than Puerto Rican officials predicted.
For perspective, Hurricane Katrina, which caused severe flooding in New Orleans in 2005, killed at least 1,833 people.
Puerto Rico suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Maria roughly 11 months ago on Sept. 21, 2017. The island’s infrastructure, energy grid and communications systems were decimated. Residents lost power for months and thousands were left homeless.
The power grid has been largely repaired, but the grid is vulnerable and likely won’t last if it hit by another storm.
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