Hurricane Maria: Death toll 70 times more than estimated

A new study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed that Hurricane Maria led to 4 645 deaths in Puerto Rico, dwarfing previous estimates.

The storm hit the coast of Puerto Rico on September 20 2017 causing extensive damage to infrastructure. With wind speeds reaching up to 250 kilometres per hour, the hurricane became the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit Puerto Rico.

In December 2017, it was originally reported that the category 4 hurricane caused 64 deaths, 70 times less than new estimates. According to the US National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Maria also caused $90-billion worth of damage.

AP reported that the aftermath of the storm left 3.3-million people without power, including those needing medical treatment in hospitals. According to the study, one-third of the total deaths were related to “delayed or interrupted healthcare”. The total mortality rate likely exceeded 14.3 deaths per 1000 people — a 62% increase in deaths from Autumn 2016 to Autumn 2017.

But the estimated death toll might be inaccurate, CNN reported. According to expert interviews, it is unclear whether or not the hurricane was solely responsible for certain deaths, but it is estimated that Maria led to the deaths of between 793 and 8 498 people.

On Tuesday, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Carlos R. Mercader wrote that the government of Puerto Rico “welcomes the study” and “looks forward to analysing it”.

We welcome @Harvard‘s mortality survey. Along with @GWtweets‘ thorough study on the number of fatalities caused by Hurricane Maria – which will be released shortly – it will help us prevent the loss of life in future natural disasters. pic.twitter.com/Li6UTJeI07

— PRFAA (@PRFAA) May 29, 2018

The US received backlash from national and international organisations including the United Nations for not adequately supporting resources to the commonwealth in the aftermath of the hurricane.

On October 30 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Committee released a statement condemning the US. In the statement, experts argued that the island did not have “an effective emergency response”, adding that the US government had an obligation to “remove regulatory and financial barriers to reconstruction and recovery”.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz wrote in October that he was disappointed with the government’s lack of response and urged the US government to help rebuild Puerto Rico, writing, “HELP US. WITHOUT ROBUST and CONSISTENT HELP WE WILL DIE.”

According to the study, the death toll is underestimated. The report has suggested that in order for the US to mobilise an “appropriate response operation” and “account for the fate of those affected,” the country should “review how disaster-related deaths will be counted”.

Advertisting

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.