Puerto Rico to release storm death data after court ruling

Weather News
APTOPIX Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria_1528223450360

Destroyed communities are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will […]

Puerto Rico’s government said Tuesday it will comply with a court ruling that orders officials to release all death certificates issued after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory amid allegations that the official death toll of 64 is severely undercounted.

The court said in its ruling earlier in the day that the government also has to turn over other information, including copies of all burial and cremation permits issued after the Category 4 storm and allow access to the demographic registrar’s database that details causes of death.

“The information … is public by nature,” wrote Judge Lauracelis Roques. “People still don’t have a clear picture as to how many lives were lost due to a lack of food, medicine, health services or simply because of an ineffective response to an emergency. That’s why it’s urgent to shed light on all components of government preparedness and response.”

The government has seven days to comply with the ruling, which responds to a lawsuit filed by CNN and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Our policy, by petition of Gov. Ricardo Rossello Nevares, is to work with the strictest transparency and facilitate access to all public information,” Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario said in a statement.

Rossello and other government officials had withheld certain information, saying in recent days that it was confidential.

“They’re wrong,” the judge wrote. “Allowing the truth to be known would contribute to and smooth a path toward a process of recovery from the great pain that Hurricane Maria caused to thousands of Puerto Rican families.”

The ruling comes just days after Puerto Rico’s Institute of Statistics filed a lawsuit against the island’s health department and demographic registry seeking more data on the number of deaths reported after Maria. Hours after that lawsuit was filed, the health department said that an additional 1,397 overall deaths were reported from September to December in 2017, compared with the same period the previous year. However, officials did not provide causes of death for any of the 11,459 total people deceased during the period.

A Harvard study published last week estimates that there were up to 4,600 more deaths than usual in the three months after Maria, although some independent experts questioned the methods and the number in that study. Previous studies have found that the number of direct and indirect hurricane-related deaths is higher than the official toll, including a 2017 report that said there were nearly 500 more deaths than usual on the island in September.

A team of experts at George Washington University is leading an independent review to determine the number of deaths caused by Maria. A preliminary report was due in May, but the team was granted more time.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Local Weather Maps

7 Day Forecast

7 Day Forecast

7 Day Forecast

Daycast

Daycast

Northeast Temperatures

Northeast Temperatures

Temperatures

Temperatures

Dew Points

Dew Points

Wind Speeds

Wind Speeds

Wind Gusts

Wind Gusts

Heat Index

Heat Index

Local Radar

Trending Stories

22News Storm Team

Weather Tweets

Love Your Pet

More Love Your Pet