Puerto Rico on Tuesday raised the official death toll from Hurricane Maria to 2,975 people – a dramatic increase on the previous official figure of 64 – almost a year after the devastating storm struck the island.
The death toll was changed for the first time since December, following the publication of new research by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
“We never anticipated a scenario of zero communication, zero energy, zero highway access,” Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, told reporters. “I think the lesson is to anticipate the worst.”
This is the first official change to the death toll following efforts by journalists, activists and academics to get the government to officially acknowledge the scale of devastation.
Rosselló told reporters the island could have been better prepared for the hurricane, which hit on 20 September 2017, causing an island-wide electricity outage and telecommunications failures that made it nearly impossible for people to contact loved ones and get help for weeks after the storm.