An expert panel created by Congress endorsed the method of calculating death tolls from extreme weather disasters like Hurricanes that President Trump attacked in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, E&E reports.
Simply relying on death certificates, the panel’s report finds, risks dramatically undercounting the human toll of disasters. For example, initial counts put the number killed in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria at just 64, but estimates endorsed by the panel attributed 2,975 deaths to the storm.
That number, which Trump claimed was “done by Democrats” to hurt him politically, is now considered the official death toll. Hurricane Maria was not an aberration, however. The death toll for Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas in 2008, has been estimated at between four and 104, and the death toll of Hurricane Katrina is still uncertain. The panel also called for nation-wide standards to ensure consistency from disaster to disaster.