Hurricane Maria victims receive supplies and bottles of water from NYC Emergency Management Operations at La Perla neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017
Even as they've acknowledged a spike in deaths after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico's government is still counting just 55 fatalities from the storm - which has many skeptical that they're telling the truth.

"Just that we have that discussion is a big issue," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told the Daily News on Thursday. "There shouldn't be any concern or discussion."

Cruz first spoke about the death toll about a week ago, revealing that there had been 911 cremations without autopsies in the wake of the storm - something she said raised serious questions. In return, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Héctor M. Pesquera called the mayor "irresponsible."

"The problem is when you answer a question with an insult, it's obviously because you don't have the truth on your side," she said.

On Wednesday, the island's territorial government - led by Governor Ricardo Rossello, who hails from an opposing party of Cruz's - acknowledged that there had, indeed, been more deaths in the months since Maria than usual.

This September saw 472 more people die than the same month in 2016, up from 2,366 to 2,838. The storm hit September 20. Its average death rate increased from 82 per day in the two weeks before Maria to 117 in the two weeks afterward.

Electricity remains rare in Puerto Rico, particularly following the failure of a transmission line on Thursday that plunged much of San Juan and the surrounding areas back into darkness - and into the heat, which leaves babies and the elderly especially vulnerable. The line was managed by Whitefish, a tiny Montana utility that was originally awarded a massive contract to work on the island before it was canceled amid outcry. That, too, has slowed down efforts to restore power.

On Thursday, the director of the island's Emergency Management Agency resigned from his post. The director, Abner Gomez, had come under criticism for taking a vacation less than a month after the hurricane ravaged the island on Sept. 20.

"The botched response to the hurricane perhaps, in terms of the death toll, has been even more devastating than the actual hurricane," Cruz said. "And if I have learned something it's that the aftermath can be a lot more devastating and heartbreaking because it - when people are drinking out of creeks, when babies are not getting fed, when people don't have dialysis, when you have to operate with a flashlight, you're certainly not giving quality of care."

The territorial government has pushed back at the idea that the storm caused the deaths of people who died in struggling hospitals after it hit.

Mili Bonilla, 60, said her father was taken to the hospital two days after the storm with respiratory issues and fluid in his lungs.

"The hospital had to transfer him because they ran out of oxygen, and of course you know the hospitals are running generators," Bonilla, who lives in the Bronx and works for Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, said Thursday as she visited a San Juan community kitchen.

When she arrived on the island, her father was doing fine, she said. But the next day he was on a respirator, and within a week he was dead.

"This is an indirect hit of the hurricane, when you have direct hits, and indirect hits," she said. "His death is now - it will not be counted as hurricane-affected. It was related."

Mark-Viverito, who is leading a Council delegation on the island, said the government's unwillingness to disclose information about deaths was "fishy" and had "a lot of us concerned that the numbers are higher."

"They're trying to be cute with the numbers not being honest and genuine with the information - hiding it or taking time to really get it out there," she said.

In addition to the lack of electricity, impassable roads have made it so people can't get to their medical appointments, she said, and others are getting treatment like dialysis once a week instead of three times a week.

"Those have to be considered causes of death based on the hurricane," she said.