The Puerto Rican government said Friday that 911 people died of “natural causes” following Hurricane Maria, according to BuzzFeed News.
Karixia Ortiz Serrano, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, told BuzzFeed that the deaths were not related to the hurricane.
BuzzFeed reports that none of the bodies were examined by a medical examiner for consideration to be included in the Maria death toll, and Ortiz said the classifications of death by “natural causes” were made by reviewing records and not inspection by medical examiners.
Ortiz told the outlet that the Puerto Rican government has no official guidelines on what qualifies as a hurricane-related death. The official Hurricane Maria death toll currently stands at 51.
The 911 bodies were cremated before medical examiners looked at them, according to BuzzFeed.
Last week, top Democrats called on the Department of Homeland Security to provide accurate death counts following the hurricane.
“We urge you to provide all necessary resources to confirm that storm-related deaths are being counted correctly," the senators wrote in the letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.
The senators argued that the official death toll does not include the about 450 people who have died since the hurricane or the 69 people who have been reported missing, all of whom have been included in various media reports.
In his visit to the storm-ravaged U.S. territory earlier this month, President Trump compared the “death counts” between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria.
“If you looked — every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody has seen anything like this,” Trump said. “What is your death count as of this morning, 17?”
“Sixteen people certified," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded.
“Sixteen people certified versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.”