Puerto Rico Raises Official Hurricane Maria Death Toll By Nearly 3,000

Puerto Rico Raises Official Hurricane Maria Death Toll By Nearly 3,000

Puerto Rico Raises Official Hurricane Maria Death Toll By Nearly 3,000

"Certain groups - those in lower income areas and the elderly - faced the highest risk", said Carlos Santos-Burgoa, MD, MPH, PhD, the principal investigator of the project and a professor of global health at GW Milken Institute SPH. "I think the lesson is to anticipate the worst".

Rossello acknowledged Puerto Rico remains vulnerable to another major storm.

"We will take the 2,975 number as the official estimate for the excess deaths as a product of the hurricane".

"We are hopeful that the government will accept this as an official death toll", she said. "It's fairly striking that you have so many households without electricity for so long".

Governor Ricardo Rossello "accepted" the findings in a long-awaited commissioned independent investigation.

The study tracked excess deaths related to Hurricane Maria from September 2017 to February 2018, whose authors described it as "the most rigorous study of excess mortality due to the hurricane done to date".

WASHINGTON - The White House said on Tuesday it supports Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello's efforts to fully account for the people killed in Hurricane Maria past year after the official toll from the disaster was raised from just 64 to 2,975. That report said, however, those 1,427 deaths "may or may not be attributable to the hurricanes".

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Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, was directly responsible for about 1,200 deaths, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Puerto Rican Bethzaida Rosado said she didn't believe the government was ready for the storm, and is still angry about the death of her 76-year-old mother. "What is your death count, as of this moment - 17?"

Besides those directly killed by the storm, scores of others died when they weren't able to access hospitals over impassable roads, couldn't plug in dialysis machines when the island went dark or couldn't cope with the stress after the storm. The study found that poor residents had a 60 percent higher chance of death, and that older males had a 35 percent higher risk than they would have in previous years.

Based on the study's findings, Maria's fatalities surpass those of Hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,800 when it hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, and every other US natural disaster since the early 20th century. He told emergency responders that they should be "very proud" of the low death count in Puerto Rico.

Among the problems researchers identified: a lack of training for doctors about reporting on hurricane death counts, poor communication between central and local governments; and a lack of proper planning by both the Puerto Rican and federal governments for a disaster as large as Maria.

"Others expressed reluctance to relate deaths to hurricanes due to concern about the subjectivity of this determination and about liability", the report stated. Researchers said the next stage of assessing the death toll includes examining death certificates and interviewing family and friends of the deceased to determine if those deaths should be attributed to the storm.

Rossello pledged to carry out the recommendations, though there are questions about Puerto Rico's ability to do so.

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