Neighbors of Quintín Vidal Rolón read Bible verses in his memory on 15 November 2017. Quintín Vidal Rolón, 89, survived Hurricane Maria but not its aftermath. Photo: CNN

By John D. Sutter, Leyla Santiago and Khushbu Shah
21 November 2017

San Juan, Puerto Rico (CNN) – Puerto Rico is asking for help with its efforts to tally deaths from Hurricane Maria.

Héctor M. Pesquera, secretary of Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety, issued a statement Monday night imploring local funeral home directors to provide the government with more information about possible hurricane-related deaths.

"As I have expressed since the beginning of the emergency, any citizen or relative who has evidence or proof that a death is directly or indirectly related to Hurricane Maria, and still has not been accounted for, can send information for our consideration to investigate," said Pesquera, whose department oversees the count.

The statement follows an investigation into the death toll by CNN, which found dozens if not hundreds of deaths possibly related to the September 20 storm may be uncounted by the government. CNN surveyed 112 funeral homes across the US territory; and funeral home directors identified 499 deaths they claimed were related to Hurricane Maria.

    That's nine times the official death toll, which is 55.

    We were able to collect information from only about half the island's funeral homes.

    "Currently, no funeral home has provided the government with specific information of a death case believed to be related to the event that they believe should be added to those already counted," Pesquera's statement says. […]

    "Now we know why officials in PR Government are asking funeral homes for the info: true journalism," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz wrote in a tweet on Monday night. The mayor has been a critic of the official death toll. [more]

    After CNN investigation, Puerto Rico asks funeral homes to help identify hurricane deaths

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