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New Harvard Study Estimates Hurricane Maria Deaths 73 Times Greater than Reported

Washington, D.C. - Researchers with Harvard University have set the death toll from the devastating storm at 4,675, not the 64 reported by emergency officials and attribute the higher count to a failure in the government’s response following the disaster.

The findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine list the two primary factors that contributed to the greater death toll were health-care disruption for the elderly and the loss of basic utility services for the chronically ill.

“The second-class response deployed by the federal government has been shameful and dangerous. Even the initial reaction to the catastrophic hurricane was slow and inadequate delaying vital emergency help that could have saved the lives of thousands of American citizens,” states Abdiel Martinez, LULAC Puerto Rico State Director. “The hurricane was the third worst since 1900 and yet families were left clinging to life without even the basic necessities of clean water and electricity. In fact, nearly one-in-three patients on respiratory machines couldn’t even turn on the equipment and other patients on dialysis died from lack of treatment,” he added.

Scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center traveled to Puerto Rico and surveyed 3,299 random households across the island. Researchers found that residents went an average of 41 days without cell phone service, 68 days without potable water, and 84 days without electricity after the hurricane.

“We trust the Harvard study intensifies attention on the urgent need for continued recovery efforts, particularly in remote areas of the island and among the elderly,” states Martinez. “The most recent estimate is that Puerto Rico needs $90-billion to rebuild and it will be years before the people of the island fully recover,” he added.

Former LULAC National Women's Commission Chair Elsie Valdes states, “This reports affirms the dangers many people on the island still face. We must not allow long-term recovery efforts to be put on the backburner, as thousands more lives hang in the balance with each passing day. This is a humanitarian life and death crisis and it is critical that people immediately receive access to basic medical care, power and potable water. We urge Congress to reignite the momentum to assist families on the island, rebuild infrastructure and not forget millions of American citizens, including women, children, the elderly and the chronically ill who are in despair. Action is needed now!”


The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with over 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit