Puerto Rico Governor Creates Task Force to Count Storm Deaths

Updated on
A Tale of Two Puerto Ricos

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said today he will establish a task force led by George Washington University to review the number of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria.

The initiative is a venture with the school’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said in a San Juan news conference.

“An independent team of experts can identify in the most accurate way the possible deaths associated directly and indirectly by the passage of Hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico,” Rossello said.

Rossello in December said the commonwealth would review the toll, acknowledging the government may have under-reported fatalities from the Sept. 20 storm. His administration had reported 64 fatalities.

The review came after a report by the New York Times that found 1,052 more people than usual died in the commonwealth in the 42 days after the Category 4 storm made landfall. The report called into question whether the government counted those who had died indirectly as a result of the storm, which has left much of the island without power. Hospitals and clinics were forced to rely on diesel-fueled generators to run life-saving equipment.

(Updates with comment from Rossello in third paragraph.)
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