>> Hurricane Maria crashed into the US territory of Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017 and eight months later, the death toll from the devastating storm is still a matter of serious dispute. The official government count is 64 fatalities. Independent media reports have put the toll at over 1,000.
And on Tuesday, a Harvard University study estimated 4,645 people died as a result of the hurricane. Reuters correspondent Nick Brown covered the storm and its aftermath.>> The people of Puerto Rico felt that that number was too low and I think most people I talked to said, look I don't know what the number is but it's probably higher than that.
And driving around the island in the days after the storm, I can see why people would have felt that way. I mean, we embedded at one point with a group of doctors whose job was to go out and find people who didn't have power and needed prescriptions written for them.
And they couldn't even do their jobs because as soon as they would show up at these facilities, the oxygen tanks stopped working, the generators stopped working, running into problems just keeping people steady, keeping them breathing.>> The Harvard study published in the New England Journal of Medicine surveyed almost 3,300 randomly selected Puerto Rican households and found mortality rates leapt 62% from September 20th through the end of 2017 compared with the year before.
They counted not just direct deaths but also those who died due to storm related delays in medical treatment for injuries, infections, and chronic illness. The US government's disaster response came under heavy criticism in the hurricane's aftermath. Puerto Rico has still not fully restored its power grid wrecked by hurricane Maria.
The 2018 hurricane season begins June 1st.