Study puts Puerto Rico hurricane deaths at 4,645

01 June, 2018, 18:34 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • New study places Hurricane Maria death toll at more than 4,600 and 70 times higher than official count

An estimated 4,645 people died in Hurricane Maria and its aftermath in Puerto Rico, according to an academic report published Tuesday in a prestigious medical journal. Authors of the study, titled "Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria", noted their figure is "likely to be conservative", saying the total could actually be in excess of 5,000.

Mammoth executives said Tuesday the company's subsidiary Cobra Acquisitions LLC has signed a one-year, $900 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to help complete the restoration of critical electrical transmission and distribution system following Hurricane Maria last year.

Using this approach, the researchers concluded that between September 20 and December 31, 2017, there were an estimated 4,645 "excess deaths", or deaths that would not have occurred had Hurricane Maria not devastated the area. They randomly sampled 35 households, totaling 9,522 people, in 13 barrios and then compared the number of deaths reported between September 20 and December 31 to the same period a year earlier since the island's death rate has not fluctuated significantly since 2010.

Earlier this year, researchers surveyed 3,299 randomly selected households (of more than 1.1 million) across the United States territory about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death.

A research team led by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health didn't simply attempt to count dead bodies in the wake of the powerful storm.

The official death toll in Puerto Rico related to Hurricane Maria has always been a controversial topic.

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Also known as the Great October Storm, almost 1,400 people are estimated to have died in a massive hurricane that wiped out a Louisiana fishing community.

A third of deaths were caused by a delay or complete lack of medical care, the study found.

If the analysis is correct, it means that for every hurricane-related death that's now on the books, another 70 fatalities in the US territory have gone uncounted. According to the National Hurricane Center (pdf), Maria caused an estimated $90 billion in damage, making it the third-costliest tropical storm since 1900, behind Katrina in 2005 and Harvey, which struck the Southern United States a year ago.

Puerto Rico also requires that deaths be confirmed by a medical examiner, a standard that researchers said could contribute to undercounting deaths on an island where no corner was left undamaged. It captures the number of deaths the medical examiner attributed directly to the storm - the high water and howling winds in the worst natural disaster on record for the USA territory. The number of deaths calculated in the new study is about 70 times the official count. The island is still struggling with power outages, a limited water supply and access to essential services, The Washington Post reported.

At the same time, he added, the government is attempting to dismantle the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, an independent agency that collects and analyzes important data. Yet the official government count still stands at 64. "Sixteen", Trump said in October.


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