The Atlantic

A Year After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Finally Knows How Many People Died

A new, definitive study from George Washington University finds that almost 3,000 people lost their lives—and highlights the government’s failures before and after the storm.
Source: Carlos Giust / AP

The grisly business of counting the dead after a natural disaster would seem to be a straightforward one. There is a certain number of people alive before the event, and there is a certain number after. Subtraction should yield a figure similar to the number of death certificates issued, and the number of loved ones families claim have been lost. That total, a composite of incalculable amounts of personal and familial grief, is how people make rough estimates of a disaster’s magnitude and scope.

As the past year of pain and uncertainty in Puerto Rico can attest, in reality, this accounting isn’t so easy. major of mortality—and several additional estimates—have contained wildly different numbers, and their differences have only inflamed

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