Hurricane Maria caused 2975 deaths in Puerto Rico, new study estimates

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Governor Rossello said he would create a commission to implement recommendations from the report and create a registry of people most vulnerable to a future storm; such as the elderly, bedridden or kidney-dialysis patients. "THEY WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN", she added.

Financial instability and a fragile infrastructure made the Caribbean island particularly vulnerable to such weather events, Santos-Burgoa said.

A new report commissioned by the Puerto Rico government estimated that 2,975 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Speaking at a news conference in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, Rossello said his government was adopting the findings as the official account of human life lost in the disaster, "even though it is an estimate".

Many people died as a result of poor healthcare provision and a lack of electricity and clean water.

"The federal government has been, and will continue to be, supportive of Governor Rossello's efforts to ensure a full accountability and transparency of fatalities resulting from last year's hurricanes", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The independent study was requested by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after unofficial investigations into Maria's devastation found the death toll to be much higher than 64, the official government number. That report said, however, those 1,427 deaths "may or may not be attributable to the hurricanes".

For comparison, the death toll from 2005's Hurricane Katrina - the costliest hurricane in U.S. history - was far lower, and estimated at 1,833. They determined there were 22 percent more deaths in Puerto Rico from September to February than expected.

The team also found that poor communication about deaths after the disaster, and especially the distinction between deaths directly related to the storm and those indirectly tied to it, contributed to confusion and consternation among members of the public.

The new report, though, takes into account an 8 percent drop in the US territory's population after the storm as thousands of survivors left quickly for the mainland.

Bethzaida Rosado said government and health care officials were not prepared for the storm, and she is still angry her 76-year-old mother died because oxygen tanks were not available on the island after the hurricane.

The report also found that the risk of death was 45 percent higher for people living in "low socioeconoic development municipalities" and that men older than 65 saw a continuous elevated risk of death.

The death toll is a contentious topic, in part because federal and island governments haven't responded as rapidly to the disaster as they have in other hurricane emergencies.

The latest study says that from the period ranging from September to December 2017 alone, there were an excess of 2,098 deaths, and 2,975 from September 2017 to February 2018.

"Others expressed reluctance to relate deaths to hurricanes due to concern about the subjectivity of this determination and about liability", the report stated.

Additional research must be done to understand how the hurricane was involved in the excess deaths identified in this study.