Puerto Rico concedes Hurricane Maria killed 1,427

RICARDO ARDUENGO  AFP

RICARDO ARDUENGO AFP

Ten days after the hurricane made landfall, Trump lambasted news reports about the troubled situation in Puerto Rico in a series of tweets.

But now, the government of Puerto Rico is revising the 64-person death toll it declared in December, estimating that more than 1,400 people died as a result of the devastating hurricane - or 400 short of Hurricane Katrina's death toll - raising questions about the effectiveness of the federal response to the hurricane and its aftermath.

The official death toll had stood at 64 for months.

Puerto Rico is estimating that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people, a figure more than 20 times the official toll which has remained frozen pending a scientific review due out soon. But in a report released Thursday, the Puerto Rican government said it's revised its estimate to 1,427.

The final version of the recovery plan being submitted to Congress outlines ambitious projects for Puerto Rico that include major highway renovations, $15 billion for the Department of Education and $26 billion for the energy grid.

The directors say in many cases they don't know how to classify hurricane-related deaths, or whether they should send bodies to the central institute certifying official hurricane deaths, the Institute of Forensic Sciences. In May, a Harvard University study estimated that 800 to 8,500 people died because of Hurricane Maria.

Firefighters battle Holy Fire as it approaches structures
The fires, which were first reported on July 27th, are not expected to be fully contained until September 1st. The Holy Fire was one of several blazes burning across California that have displaced tens of thousands.

The New York Times first reported on the Puerto Rican government's report to Congress.

The administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello stopped updating its official death toll months ago and ordered an investigation amid reports that the number was substantially undercounted.

Updated statistics, including the 1,427 count, were released in June, but the number had not been publicly acknowledged by officials.

The official death toll has not been updated, he said, because officials are awaiting the outcome of the George Washington University study to provide certainty: "Once GW's study is out, the number will be updated".

In another tweet, he lashed out at San Juan's mayor who took to the airwaves to raise alarm about the slow pace of recovery efforts. This year, Puerto Ricans laid thousands of pairs of shoes outside the island's Capitol building to represent the uncounted dead. Two bills were introduced in Congress in June in an attempt to establish a standard for counting deaths after a natural disaster.

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