SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has said that the death toll in the wake of Hurricane Maria is much higher than the official 54 reported deaths, being closer to 500.

In an interview with CNN, Cruz said, “It appears, for whatever reason, that the death toll is much higher than what has been reported.”  The official death toll is said to be 54 but the Mayor says that its likely to be closer to 500. 

Cruz added that there were 911 cremations in Puerto Rico last month, pointing out that it is almost double the normal number. Cruz further noted in the interview, “What we do know for sure is that people are being catalogued as dying…natural deaths.”

Reports have noted that 911 people died due to natural causes last month after Hurricane Maria and none of the bodies were examined by a medical practitioner. 

Further, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety said that the deaths were categorised as natural deaths after reviewing records and not after being reviewed by a medical examiner.

According to reports, Democrats called the Department of Homeland Security to get a more accurate picture on the death toll.  The senators wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, “We urge you to provide all necessary resources to confirm that storm-related deaths are being counted correctly.”