Funeral home directors in two small, largely forgotten towns in the US territory’s interior, Jayuya and Utuado, told BuzzFeed News they have received significantly more corpses as a result of the storm, which made landfall 18 days ago, than the number the government has so far counted in a “certified” tally for those areas. Four funeral homes in San Juan said they have dozens of bodies, but two said they don’t think the deaths are storm-related.
The death toll took on increased symbolism last week when President Trump visited the island during a photo op tour to claim the recovery was “fantastic.” Sitting next to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Trump gloated that the death toll was low when compared to Hurricane Katrina 12 years before — “Sixteen people versus in the thousands.” Hours later, Rosselló increased the number of dead to 34. It’s now at 36. And there are reports it’s up to 39.