(RNN) – The official death toll is 64, but a new Harvard study says Hurricane Maria and its aftermath really killed 4,645 people in Puerto Rico.
The article published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine said one-third of the deaths could be blamed on the “interruption of medical care … in the months after the hurricane.”
Hurricane Maria, a high-end category 4 storm, struck the island in September, doing tens of billions of dollars in damage to buildings, roads and power lines.
Essentially all of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents were without power immediately after the storm. There are sections of the island that still don’t have electricity months later.
The National Hurricane Center dubbed Maria the most destructive hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in modern times and, at $90 billion, it is the third-costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Researchers came up with their estimates by contacting nearly 3,300 randomly selected households across Puerto Rico between January and March. They asked them questions about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death.
The researchers then compared their results with mortality rates from 2016 to come up with their estimate of “excess deaths” due to the storm.
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