The government of Puerto Rico produced a document that includes, for the first time, a figure reference regarding hurricane related deaths which is much higher than the official 64 deaths reported since the end of 2017.
The administration of Ricardo Rosselló Nevares published on Monday the draft Recovery Plan for Puerto Rico, which he will submit to Congress next month. Summarizing the social impact caused by the hurricane, the document indicates that, in terms of fatalities, "according to initial reports, 64 lives were lost. That estimate was later revised to 1,427. "
This figure reflects the increase in deaths, between September and December, when compared to the average of the same period during the previous four years.
"Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher," the report acknowledges on page 30.
"On June 13, the Government of Puerto Rico revealed that there were 1,427 more deaths in the four months after the hurricanes than
normal (based on the previous four years), and it will update the official count after a George Washington University study is completed," adds the document.
When questioned about the content of the report, the executive director of the Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office (CRRO), in charge of the plan, initially said that he thought they were the figures released by the Demographic Registry in June, but could not assure it.
Two hours later, he told El Nuevo Día that it was the data of that government entity, but was allegedly poorly presented in the Recovery Plan for Puerto Rico
Recovery Plan of Puerto Rico
"The way it was included poorly worded because it is not that it was revised to 1,427. It is that when the information is provided, that data emerges, but that contributes to the government's intention of clarifying and being transparent," said Marrero.
He added that "the writing will be corrected so that it is not misinterpreted".
"We can not conclude that all deaths are related to the storm. That is part of the research that has to be done and that data will be in the George Washington University study," he said.
The official insisted that as it is a draft plan there could be “an error”. "It's a draft. It is not the final document. "
He stated that the document was drafted with "the information available, but not everything is government information". "The document clearly says it. It does not use only official information. No. It uses everything that was available to reach a comprehensive document," he said.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced the publication of the document on Monday evening. According to Marrero, a 10-day period for public comments was established. Then, itwill be submitted to Congress on August 8.
Marrero defends estimates
The Recovery Plan estimated that Puerto Rico will need almost $ 125 billion for the recovery plan drafted by the government after Hurricane Maria , in a 11-year period.
Marrero explained that the plan was drawn up after the Congress budget law 2018 ordered that Puerto Rico submit -in 180 days- a recovery plan for the next 12 to 24 months detailing the “objectives, priorities and general strategy to achieve that recovery”.
The report estimate for recovery exceeds the $ 94.4 billion requested by Rosselló Nevares last November.
"It changes because it is adjusted. November was just 60 days after the hurricane, but the reality is that we had to submit a document," said Marrero.
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