The death toll of hurricane Maria, which barreled Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands with winds and rain that destroyed homes and devastated economies, has climbed to 43.
Secretary of public affairs and public policy, Ramon Rosario, also told reporters on Tuesday that only 16 percent of electricity service was restored.
Rosario added that the death toll had increased from 39 which was previously reported. Of the four newly reported deaths, one was a person who died of infection, another was killed in a car accident caused by road damage and a third died when a damaged roof fell on him while he was clearing debris from a road. The secretary did not give details of the fourth death.
The death toll could continue to rise as islanders continue to get exposed to infections, poor road conditions and other consequences of the storm.
According to official data, less than 33 percent of the island’s cellphone towers have been restored. Many cell sites still remain out of service, while wireless communications companies are deploying temporary sites.
Maria was the second major hurricane to hit the Caribbean and the strongest storm to hit the US territory of Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years. It knocked out the island’s power, and several rivers hit record flood levels.
Meanwhile, residents of the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan have described relief efforts by US President Donald Trump’s administration as a “disaster,” insisting that federal help has been disorganized, delayed and scarce, especially in remote areas.
The island’s recovery could be complicated by its current financial woes described as the largest municipal debt crisis in US history.
Trump faced widespread criticism following his Puerto Rico trip last week as he complained about the costs of hurricane damage, belittled the scope of the devastation and tossed paper towels at crowds seeking relief aid.
The US president also claimed on Tuesday that providing supplies and other relief to Puerto Rico were more difficult than similar disaster efforts in Florida and Texas because it is a more isolated island in the Atlantic Ocean.