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Study: Nearly 3,000 Deaths in Puerto Rico Linked to Hurricane Maria

08-28-2018

A new study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government reveals Hurricane Maria killed far more people than initially thought.

According to the report performed by George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, there were an estimated 2,975 deaths on the island from September 2017 through February 2018 – about double the government's previous estimate of 1,400 deaths.

The study found that those in low-income areas, and elderly men, were at the greatest risk of dying. 

To arrive at the 2,975 figure, the study looked at historical death patterns from 2010 to 2017 to estimate how many people would have died had Hurricane Maria not hit the island.

That figure was then compared to the actual number of deaths from September 2017 through February 2018, obtained in records provided by the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Records division of the Puerto Rico Department of Health.

"Overall, we estimate that 40 percent of municipalities experienced significantly higher mortality in the study period than in the comparable period of the previous two years," the report says.

The devastating storm barreled into the Caribbean island last September.

Puerto Rico's government initially reported 64 deaths blamed on the hurricane. Since then, several studies have indicated the actual death toll was much higher, though researchers have arrived at a range of different figures.

One Harvard University study says the death toll from Hurricane Maria last year is dramatically larger than reported. 

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimates more than 4,600 people died on the island. 

"Many stated that the Puerto Rico Department of Health and the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety did not notify them about the CDC special guidelines for correct documentation of cases, on the importance of correctly documenting deaths related to the hurricane or on an emergency protocol for handling these cases," it says. 

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