Another study concluded that Hurricane Maria’s death toll is much higher than Puerto Rico’s official report. While the recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association’s estimate is lower than a study published by Harvard in May, the overall death toll is 15 to 20 times greater than the Puerto Rican government’s official death record.
The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded in a research letter published on Thursday that 1,139 people perished in the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. The way the researchers arrived at this figure is by analyzing the official death statistics between January 2010 to December 2017 to get the average number of deaths expected per month. Then they compared that number to the number of death that occurred from September through December 2017 to make their conclusion.
The Puerto Rican government focused their count on the death certificates, which were labeled “hurricane related,” but said they stopped counting once they commissioned George Washington University to review its official death toll.
“The number hasn’t changed not because we believe there were only 64 deaths but because we’re waiting for this study,” Pedro Cerame, a spokesperson for the Puerto Rican governor’s office in Washington, D.C., said to CNN.
While the Journal of the American Medical Association’s estimate was much lower than Harvard’s study, which concluded close to 5,000 people perished as a result of Hurricane Maria, the methods they used differed. According to a report from EcoWatch, “The most recent research paper says that the Harvard study had a high degree of uncertainty and both underestimated pre-hurricane deaths and overestimated post-hurricane deaths.”