Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Could Be “More Than 70 Times” Official Estimate

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Wed, 05/30/2018

An estimated 4,645 people perished when Hurricane Maria slammed into Peurto Rico, a territory of the United States, on September 20, 2017, and in the months after, according to an academic report published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. This shocking estimate dwarfs Puerto Rico’s official death toll of 64, which the researchers called a “substantial underestimate,” mostly due to delayed or interrupted medical services.

Maria caused an estimated $90 billion in damages across the island, making it one of the most expensive hurricanes for the United States since 1900. Tens of thousands of people were displaced from their homes, seeking shelter on higher ground or in the Continental United States. Accurate estimates of deaths, injuries, illness, and displacement have been extremely difficult to evaluate in the aftermath because infrastructure and healthcare systems were severely damaged.

“These numbers will serve as an important independent comparison to official statistics from death-registry data, which are currently being reevaluated, and underscore the inattention of the U.S. government to the frail infrastructure of Puerto Rico,” said researchers.

The team of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other academic institutions surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico to produce an independent estimate of death after the hurricane. Respondents were asked a series of questions about “displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death,” the report said. Researchers estimated deaths by comparing estimated post-hurricane mortality rate with official rates for the same period in 2016.

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