SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's government announced Friday that it has created a committee to improve how the U.S. territory counts deaths following sharp criticism of how it handled fatalities linked to Hurricane Maria.
The announcement comes two months after experts at George Washington University estimated that 2,975 people died after the hurricane. Many criticized the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rossello for severely undercounting the number of deaths indirectly linked to the Category 4 storm.
Officials said the 19-member committee will create and revise death certification protocols and improve management of information for future disasters. Members include Puerto Rico government officials and U.S. public health experts. It will be co-chaired by the director of Puerto Rico's Federal Affairs Administration and the director of the National Disaster and Preparedness Response Center at Columbia University.
Rossello had pledged in August to create the committee, which is called 9/20 given that Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017.
A joint investigation published in September by The Associated Press, the Puerto Rico-based Center for Investigative Journalism and Quartz revealed how Puerto Ricans died without medical care after Maria struck. It offered a detailed portrait of the agonizing final days of victims of the storm, interviewing 204 families of the dead and reviewing accounts of 283 more to tell the stories of heretofore anonymous victims.