Previous reporting has highlighted a dramatic 29 percent spike in the suicide rate between 2016 and 2017, with a bump after Hurricane Maria, as well as the discrepancy between official reports of death and independently tabulated numbers. Places like Puerto Rico need the proper funding and federal attention in order to survive, and can't simply rely on fundraising by celebrities every time the government is unwilling to help. A Politico investigation from March also revealed the Trump administration favored Texas over Puerto Rico after both suffered devastating storms past year.
In his trip to the island last October, President Trump could hardly contain his indifference to the working class, telling the people of Puerto Rico that the destruction from Hurricane María did not constitute "a real catastrophe like Katrina" because the death count was so low. This data was compared statistically with the estimated population of 3.4 million in Puerto Rico.
The island's slow recovery has been marked by a persistent lack of water, a faltering power grid and a lack of essential services - all of which have imperiled the lives of many residents who have been struggling to get back on their feet, especially the infirm and those in remote areas, some of which were the hardest hit in September.
To find the answer to a hard question, the researchers surveyed nearly 3,300 homes across Puerto Rico and compared the number of deaths with the number of deaths that should have occurred from September 20 through the end of the year.
There have also been repeated power cuts since then, including an island-wide one in April, almost seven months after the hurricane. The team was eager to suggest that Puerto Rico's government could use their methodology at an even larger scale, and minimize the uncertainties and reduce the wide range of potential deaths to a more stable one. In November, they concluded that Puerto Rico had experienced an excess of roughly 1,100 deaths in the wake of Hurricane Maria. At the time, the number of fatalities in Puerto Rico stood at 16.
The latest death-toll estimate could be seen as an indictment of the federal response to the storm, said Dr. Gregory J. Davis, director of the University of Kentucky's Forensic Pathology Consultation Service.
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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
That could result in an overcounting of deaths, he said. It said this was because no one could answer the survey questions for those people who had been living on their own and died during the storm.
Researchers wrote that health care disruption in the US after Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and hurricanes Harvey and Irma were also a major contributor to storm-related deaths.