Officials in Puerto Rico now say 2,975 people died following Hurricane Maria – a devastating storm that struck the US island territory in September 2017. The revised death toll is nearly 50 times the previous estimate of 64.
Governor Ricardo Rossello “accepted” the findings in a long-awaited independent investigation.
The mayor of the capital, San Juan, accused the US government of deliberately downplaying the impact of the storm.
Puerto Rico has struggled to repair its infrastructure and power grid since the storm and is asking US Congress for $139 billion in recovery funds. In a statement, the White House said the federal government supported the governor’s efforts to “ensure a full accountability and transparency of fatalities” in the hurricane.
President Donald Trump was criticized for praising the federal response to the hurricane-ravaged island in the weeks following the storm. Critics accused him of showing more concern for residents in Texas and Florida after they were hit by hurricanes.
The authorities have faced criticism for underreporting the toll of Maria – the most powerful storm to hit the region in nearly 90 years.
Until now, the official figure was 64 – even though the island had previously acknowledged the death toll was probably much higher. In the wake of the disaster, some experts estimated as many as 4,600 deaths.