The government of Puerto Rico has admitted over 1,400 people lost their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year.
In its report to the US Congress on Wednesday, it was revealed that 1,427 more deaths occurred in the four months after the storm. This number also appeared in a draft of the report “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation”, which was published and opened for public comment July 9.
“Cascading failures” in local infrastructure
The territory’s government in detailing a US$139 billion reconstruction plan, said that the additional deaths resulted from the effects of a storm that led to a “cascading failures” in infrastructure across the island of 3.3 million people.
In the weeks after the storm, Puerto Rican officials said the storm directly caused 64 deaths, many in landslides or flooding.
The report to Congress also said that most of the deaths occurred not in the initial storm on September 20, but in the ensuing days and weeks when the island-wide electricity outage and roads blocked by downed power lines and other debris made it difficult to move around and emergency services were stretched beyond their capabilities.
Second deadliest hurricane
This new report makes Maria the second-deadliest hurricane to strike Puerto Rico since records began in the mid-19th century. According to data from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, only the San Ciriaco hurricane of August 1899 was deadlier, with an official estimate of 3,369 killed.