Hurricane Maria is now one of deadliest disasters in U.S. history

The study analyzed typical death patterns from the Puerto Rico Department of Health during the previous seven years in Puerto Rico, and contrasted them with the numbers from the period of September 2017 to February 2018, during which time much of the island remained in darkness after the hurricane delivered a knockout blow to its infrastructure.

Independent researchers from the George Washington University have estimated that Hurricane Maria caused 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico in the six months following the storm.

On Tuesday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló officially raised the hurricane's death toll to match the report's findings, making Maria the deadliest US hurricane since a 1900 storm that hit Texas.

Researchers determined the figure by examining deaths on the island from 2010 to 2017 and compared that to the data from the six months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

A new report commissioned by the Puerto Rico government estimated that 2,975 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

But US Representative Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, said the study was "only the latest to underscore that the federal response to the hurricanes was disastrously inadequate, and as a result, thousands of our fellow American citizens lost their lives".

Santos-Burgoa said the high death toll, ranking Maria among the worst natural disasters in United States history, was evidence that "we lack a culture of preparedness".

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

"We still don't know when deaths came back to baseline", Goldman said.

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There is no way to determine the exact number of fatalities stemming from the storm and communication issues between the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics Registry which is involved in the death certification process, but it is clear the death toll is significantly larger than the number that was initially claimed.

The study said that the risk of dying over this period was 60 percent higher among people living in the poorest areas, the network reported.

The research represents the most rigorous study of excess mortality due to the hurricane done to date.

The authorities have faced almost a year of criticism for underreporting the true toll of Maria - the most powerful storm to hit the region in almost 90 years.

However, they did not share details of their methodology, saying those will be released if the study is published in a scientific journal.

The study also found the government only had plans in place to deal with a Category 1 storm, and Maria was Category 4 with 154mph winds.

In comparison, the death toll from 2005's Hurricane Katrina - the costliest hurricane in U.S. history - was far lower, and estimated at 1,833. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

The researchers made several recommendations, including more emergency planning and government training for doctors on filling out death certificates.

Researchers also said that the heightened risk of death continued beyond the five months that researchers studied. The island is trying to restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion public debt amid a 12-year recession.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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