Spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, Karixia Ortiz Serrano, admitted that the deaths were not related to the hurricane.
The news agency goes on to report that none of the bodies were “examined by a medical examiner for consideration to be included in the Maria death toll.”
Serrano stated that the classifications of death by “natural causes” were made by reviewing records and not inspection by medical examiners. She went on to share that the Puerto Rican government has “no official guidelines on what qualifies as a hurricane-related death.”
The official Hurricane Maria death toll currently stands at 51, and more than 900 bodies were cremated before medical examiners got a chance to look at them.
Last week, Democratic senators called on the Department of Homeland Security to provide “accurate death counts following the hurricane,” arguing that the official death toll does not include the 450 who have died since the hurricane or the 69 who have been reported missing.
During his visit to the storm-ravaged U.S. territory earlier this month, the President of the United States compared the “death counts” to those between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria.
“If you looked — every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody has seen anything like this,” Trump said. “What is your death count as of this morning, 17?”
“Sixteen people certified,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded.0comments
“Sixteen people certified versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.”
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