Five deadliest hurricanes as toll from Hurricane Maria raised

Geraldine Edwards
September 2, 2018

The ruling comes the same week Puerto Rico updated its official death toll from Maria to 2,975, a vast increase from the original count of 64. Later, unofficial investigations and independent scientific studies suggested that the death toll was likely much higher.

The report was conducted in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health and commissioned by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello. Puerto Rico was hit by storms Maria, Irma and Philippe, and was narrowly missed by hurricane Jose. "We saw tragedies unfold and we saw many, many people served, the Gospel being shared and Christ being honored".

"The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect".

"During our broader study, we found that many physicians were not oriented in the appropriate certification protocol", the report explains.

In addition, the GW researchers analyzed death statistics for age groups, gender and geography.

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In truth, the new official number is still an estimate - based on mortality data and taking into account historical data on migration patterns.

Also in December, The New York Times estimated 1,052 "excess deaths" occurred after Maria.

The George Washington researchers said the official count from the September 20 hurricane was low in part because doctors were not trained in how to classify deaths after a disaster.

John Mutter, a professor at Columbia University who researches disaster management, said death certificates are "critical" to determining what is attributable to the hurricane.

It was the third major hurricane to hit the United States with lethal force in less than a month a year ago, following Harvey in Texas and Irma in the Caribbean and Florida.

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He also awarded himself a "10 out of 10" on disaster recovery efforts during an Oval Office meeting a year ago with Puerto Rico's governor. Doctors had classified his death as natural, and it was not initially considered a storm-related death. "That's unusual in the USA after a disaster". Monitoring should look not only at overall rates of death but also for spikes in death rates in certain areas and within subpopulations, such as the elderly.

This is largely because of the sustained impact of the disaster with respect to those needing medical assistance and access to medicines.

In addition, the lack of clear, effective communications to the public "decreased the perceived transparency and credibility of the Government of Puerto Rico". In the second phase, the researchers plan to focus on the causes of death. This would involve interviews of family members and others, as well as in-depth statistical analyses, to learn about the circumstances leading up to individual deaths.

Janet Collazo still remembers the day she got a call from a family in Moca, a small town near the western coast of Puerto Rico, weeks after Hurricane Maria pummeled the island. "If enacted, the recommendations of this report could help save lives in Puerto Rico and beyond".

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