Skip to main content

Puerto Rico’s Governor Orders Review of All Deaths Since Hurricane Maria

On Monday, Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló announced that every death on the island since Hurricane Maria will be reviewed in order to determine if the increase in deaths following the storm could be attributed to its effects.

Millions of Puerto Ricans have been without power since the Category 5 storm made landfall on September 20th, and hundreds of thousands are still without access to clean water. The official death toll from the storm is 64, but the indirect death toll—due to power outages in hospitals, or lack of food, water, and medical supplies—could be much higher.

Following investigations by news organizations like the New York Times, which revealed a higher than average death rate for the island in the days and weeks after the storm, the governor now admits that the toll "may be higher than the official count certified to date."

"We want the most accurate count and understanding of how people lost their lives to fully account for the impact of these storms, and to identify ways in which we can prevent fatalities in advance of future disasters," Rosselló said in a statement. "That is why I have ordered the Puerto Rico Demographic Registry and the Department of Public Safety to conduct a thorough review and inspection of all deaths that have taken place since [H]urricane Maria hit, regardless of what the death certificate says."

But a full and accurate count may never be realized; an October report from BuzzFeed found that many potential hurricane victims were cremated without being counted in the official death toll. It's not yet clear how the governor's review will account for these cases.