Puerto Rican government says Hurricane María death toll estimate closer to 1,400

The Puerto Rican government admitted in a report that more than 1,400 people died in the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane María, an estimate much higher than the official death toll of 64 fatalities.

The New York Times reports the U.S. territory released that number in a draft plan to Congress requesting $139 billion in reconstruction funds.

"Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher," the draft report said. "On June 13, the Government of Puerto Rico revealed that there were 1,427 more deaths in the four months after the hurricanes than normal (based on the previous four years), and it will update the official count after a George Washington University study is completed."

The draft report also acknowledges a Harvard study that estimated hurricane deaths ranged from about 800 to 8,500 – with many fatalities due to delayed or interrupted health care in the months after the Sept. 20 storm.

The Puerto Rican government and the Trump administration have been highly criticized for the downplaying the number of fatalities. When President Donald Trump visited the island in October after the hurricane, he bragged that the death toll at the time was only 16 people, compared to the thousands who had died after Hurricane Katrina, according to the Washington Post.

"Every death is a horror," Trump said. "But if you look at a real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with … You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people."

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