Hurricane Maria Death Toll Nears 4,700 Despite Initial Reports Of 64 Dead

San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 24, 2017 following the passage of Hurricane Maria. (Photo by Getty Images)

BOSTON, MA (WBZ AM) -- 251 days ago, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, devastating the island. The official death toll sits at 64, but a new interdisciplinary study from Harvard shows the number is closer to 4,700.

WBZ's Nichole Davis spoke with two authors of the study, Dr. Caroline Buckee of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Dr. Satchit Balsari of Harvard Medical School.

"One of the main findings of the study is that the mortality rate remained high throughout the year," said Dr. Buckee. "So we suspect that this is going to be the norm following hurricanes, especially because many of the deaths were due to delayed or prevented access to medical care."

Dr. Balsari echoed that sentiment, adding that it is important for disaster relief agencies to plan for long-term medical care in the future. 

"A large proportion of those deaths were from delayed or interrupted access to medical care, and I think it is very important that the disaster response agencies - as they're thinking about the hurricane season - begin to plan for contingencies for caring for people with chronic diseases," he said.

WBZ News Radio 1030's Nichole Davis Reports: 

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