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Hurricane Maria caused an estimated 2,975 deaths, new study shows

Hurricane Maria caused an estimated 2,975 deaths, new study shows

"The inadequate preparedness and personnel training for crisis and emergency risk communication, combined with numerous barriers to accurate, timely information and factors that increased rumor generation, ultimately decreased the perceived transparency and credibility of the Government of Puerto Rico", the report noted.

Hurricane Maria now stands as one of the deadliest natural disasters in US history - claiming even more lives than Hurricane Katrina - after a new report said the death toll in Puerto Rico was more than 46 times higher than the initial government tally.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - An estimated 2,975 people died in the six months after Hurricane Maria as a result of the storm, with the elderly and impoverished most affected, according to a long-awaited independent study ordered by the US territory's government that was released Tuesday. "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.

The study, a collaboration between GWU's Milken Institute School of Public Health and the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health, blamed the Category 5 storm in September for 2,975 deaths on the island territory.

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

"Those interviewed said they did not receive information about how to certify deaths during, or in conditions created by, a disaster", according to the report.

The death toll was estimated at 64 following the devastating storm that struck the USA island territory in September 2017.

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




The U.S. federal government has been heavily criticized for its response to the storm and the island's recovery efforts.

The latest Puerto Rico figure was derived from comparisons between predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after the storm, a number that turned out to be 22 percent higher. A spokesman for Gov. Rossello said the governor would speak at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

It could have political implications, as Donald Trump had marvelled over the small number of fatalities compared with "a real catastrophe like Katrina" and was criticised for responding half-heartedly to the disaster.

The new toll, which puts the figure significantly higher than the 1,883 deaths after Hurricane Katrina, is likely to further fuel the long simmering debate about exactly how many people were killed by Hurricane Maria.

Households went for an average of 84 days without electricity, 64 days without water, and 41 days without cellular telephone coverage after the storm.

For the study, the researchers reviewed mortality data from July 2010 to February 2018.

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

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