Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico death toll 70 times higher than official count, study suggests

In this May 16, 2018 photo, deteriorated U.S. and Puerto Rico flags fly on a roof eight months after the passing of Hurricane Maria in the Barrio Jacana Piedra Blanca area of Yabucoa, a town where many continue without power in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican officials said 98.86 percent of PREPA's customers had electricity on May 17, but many remain without power as the longest blackout in U.S. history continues. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Harvard researchers suggests that the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria could be 70 times higher than the official count.

The study, entitled Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, concluded that 4645 excess deaths took place between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31. Researchers said this estimation was likely on the conservative side. The official death toll related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is 64.

Researchers participating in the study surveyed 3,299 randomly-selected households across the island and asked respondents about property damage, displacement, and causes of death.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma had already devastated the U.S. territory. Both storms damaged the island's infrastructure, cutting off access to telecommunications, electricity, and water.

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