Puerto Rico governor raises Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975

The report found that an estimated 2,975 deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello immediately announced he was raising the official count of the death toll.

In an independent report published today, researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GW Milken Institute SPH) estimated there were 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria from September 2017 through the end of February 2018.

Researchers estimated the excess deaths with the help of mathematical modeling that compared post-hurricane deaths to the expected number based on historical patterns, and adjusted for age, sex and migration from the island.

Puerto Rico said in a report to Congress earlier this month that it saw 1,427 more deaths "than normal" in the four months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, though it said not all of the deaths may be attributable to the storms.

Pennsylvania's governor is heading to Puerto Rico to examine damage from last year's Hurricane Maria and to develop cultural and business ties.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which battered Puerto Rico last September, the U.S. territory announced after a new study.

But US Representative Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, said the study was "only the latest to underscore that the federal response to the hurricanes was disastrously inadequate, and as a result, thousands of our fellow American citizens lost their lives".

There is no national standard for how to count disaster-related deaths. Repeated power outages also led to an increased number of deaths from diabetes and sepsis.

"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.

That figure was always risible - particularly when you consider that the 150 miles per hour (241 kmh) winds caused around $90bn worth of damage and left households for, on average, 84 days without electricity; 64 days without water and 41 days without cellular telephone coverage.

"We still don't know when deaths came back to baseline", Goldman said. To reduce such errors, the team recommends that physicians and other relevant health care providers in Puerto Rico - and on the mainland - receive explicit training so that they can more accurately certify deaths under disaster conditions.

The first phase of the study cost $305,000. 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.

The research represents the most rigorous study of excess mortality due to the hurricane done to date. Maria was a Category 4 with 154-mph winds.

For comparison, the death toll from 2005's Hurricane Katrina - the costliest hurricane in United States history - was far lower, and estimated at 1,833.

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


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