Independent report links nearly 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria

An independent report published today, Aug. 28, estimated that there were 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria from September 2017 through the end of February 2018, a number that is 22 percent higher than the number of deaths that would have been expected during that period in a year without the storm.

This is drastically higher than the official toll of 64 deaths and double an unofficial government estimate, said the researchers at The Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

Certain groups – those in lower income areas and the elderly – faced the highest risk, said the report.

The GW-led team analyzed death certificates and other mortality data for six months from September 2017 through February 2018. Using a sophisticated mathematical model, the team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns. The researchers also adjusted for age, sex and migration from the island.

The team found that lack of communication, well established guidelines and lack of training for physicians on how to certify deaths in disasters, resulted in the undercount.