Earlier this week, Harvard researchers released a study indicating Hurricane Maria likely killed about 5,000 people across Puerto Rico previous year, more than 70 times the official estimate. The official death toll from the storm is 64.
In addition to a significantly higher death toll, the study showed that the average household went approximately 41 days without cell phone service, 68 days without water, and 84 days without electricity following the storm.
According to the new data, 3,040 people died in Puerto Rico in October 2017 - the first full month after the devastating storm hit on September 20 - an increase of 680 over the same time the previous year. The study estimates a death rate of 14.3 deaths per thousand [95% CI 9.8 to 18.9] between September 20 (date of Hurricane Maria) and December 31, 2017, up from a rate of 8.8 deaths per thousand at the same time in 2016.
On Friday, the USA commonwealth's government released data showing deaths on the island spiked sharply around the time Hurricane Maria hit - perhaps dovetailing with assertions that the official storm death toll is far too low. The agency did not provide any additional information to put the data in context. The memorial began Friday as an impromptu display but has since grown rapidly.
The study was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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The country has faced many challenges since Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20. Almost six months after a New York Times report suggested 1,052 deaths may have been linked to the hurricane, a research team led by Harvard University put the figure even higher, at 4,645. The storm came two weeks after Hurricane Irma hammered the US territory.
The Puerto Rican government commissioned a more precise study but it has been delayed, NPR reported. "This is a sacred place right now", organizer Gloribel Delgado said.
He said the institute previously won a similar lawsuit it filed in 2010 to obtain mortality data from the health department amid accusations that the government was not properly counting or classifying overall deaths.
Government officials have previously said they can not release mortality data post-Maria because it is under review as ordered by the governor.
Wanda Llovet, chief of the Department of Health's Demographic Registry, defended her agency on Friday, saying it provided fatality information in "accordance with the public policy of transparency", according to a statement that accompanied the data release.