Puerto Rico Raises Hurricane Maria Death Toll to nearly 3,000

Puerto Rico Raises Hurricane Maria Death Toll to nearly 3,000

Puerto Rico Raises Hurricane Maria Death Toll to nearly 3,000

The death toll of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has jumped from 64 to almost 3,000 after an official report was released.

The elderly and impoverished were most affected, according to an independent study ordered by the United States territory after the low initial death toll was widely questioned.

But a rigorous new study - the result of which may be the closest thing to a consensus we get - found that the answer is 2,975 people, a number that dwarfs the previous official death toll, and makes Maria the second-deadliest hurricane in American history.

Puerto Rico's government initially reported 64 deaths blamed on the hurricane.

"I'm giving an order to update the official number of deaths to 2,975", governor Ricardo Rossello said at a press conference.

The team also identified flaws in the system that may have led to an under-reporting of deaths previously, including lack of communication, and poor training for doctors on how to certify deaths in disasters.

Researchers with George Washington said they counted deaths over the span of six months - a much longer period than usual - because so many people were without power during that time.

"That caused a number of issues", Goldman said, explaining that people were forced to exert themselves physically or were exposed to intense heat without fans or air conditioning.

Households went for an average of 84 days without electricity, 64 days without water, and 41 days without cellular telephone coverage after the storm. That would make it the deadliest US natural disaster in over 100 years. "I think the lesson is to anticipate the worst".

She died because oxygen tanks were not available on the island after the storm.

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"The results of our epidemiological study suggest that, tragically, Hurricane Maria led to a large number of excess deaths throughout the island", said principal investigator Carlos Santos-Burgoa, a professor of global health at George Washington University.

The study found that all age and income groups were affected by the sharp rise in mortality, but that the risk of death was markedly higher among the island's poor. The report did highlight the damage to Puerto Rico's infrastructure and public health, and was accompanied by a request for $139 billion in aid.

"Others expressed reluctance to relate deaths to hurricanes due to concern about the subjectivity of this determination and about liability", the report stated.

It analysed death certificates and other mortality data for six months from September 2017 through February 2018. "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.", he said.

However, they did not share details of the methodology, saying those will be released if the study is published in a scientific journal.

Earlier this month, Puerto Rican officials quietly acknowledged that Hurricane Maria likely killed more than 1,400 people in a draft report to Congrees that outlined the government's reconstruction plan.

The study also found the government only had plans in place to deal with a Category 1 storm, and Maria was Category 4 with 154mph winds.

"We still don't know when deaths came back to baseline", Goldman said.

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

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