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Death toll from Hurricane Maria severely underreported due to data shortfall

Forlorn couch sits amongst a ruined house
A destroyed home in mid-December 2017 in Utado, Puerto Rico. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The lack of proper scientific data collection in Puerto Rico during and after Hurricane Maria hit the island last September has resulted in the death toll being severely underreported — the real number is closer to 1,085 than the government's estimate of 64 — essentially limiting necessary financial and other aid resources, according to research published in Health Affairs Monday.

Why it matters:

"[T]he official death toll undercounted deaths attributable to Hurricane Maria by a factor of 15 or higher. This is important because something failed, somebody failed to our people, and steps need to be taken to ensure that this does not happens again." 
— Alexis Raúl Santos, Penn State University demographer and article author, tells Axios