Hurricane Maria Death Toll 70 TIMES MORE Than We Were Told

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

The official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is only 64 people. With the devastation wrought last September by the powerful storm, many people questioned the veracity of that number. And it looks like they may have had good cause. A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine puts the number at 70 times more than that – they estimate that 4645 people perished due to the hurricane, and say that this is a very conservative estimate.

Quantifying the effect of natural disasters on society is critical for recovery of public health services and infrastructure. The death toll can be difficult to assess in the aftermath of a major disaster. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused massive infrastructural damage to Puerto Rico, but its effect on mortality remains contentious. The official death count is 64.

Using a representative, stratified sample, we surveyed 3299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico to produce an independent estimate of all-cause mortality after the hurricane. Respondents were asked about displacement, infrastructure loss, and causes of death. We calculated excess deaths by comparing our estimated post-hurricane mortality rate with official rates for the same period in 2016…

…Our results indicate that the official death count of 64 is a substantial underestimate of the true burden of mortality after Hurricane Maria. Our estimate of 4645 excess deaths from September 20 through December 31, 2017, is likely to be conservative since subsequent adjustments for survivor bias and household-size distributions increase this estimate to more than 5000. These adjustments represent one simple way to account for biases, but we have made our data publicly available for additional analyses. (source)

That’s certainly an astonishing difference from the “official” report, isn’t it?

How people died

The NEJM says that the interruption of medical care was the primary cause of additional deaths. People with chronic illness, those who were injured, and folks who became ill after the hurricane were unable to access the basic care that would have ordinarily saved them.

Growing numbers of persons have chronic diseases and use sophisticated pharmaceutical and mechanical support that is dependent on electricity. Chronically ill patients are particularly vulnerable to disruptions in basic utilities, which highlights the need for these patients, their communities, and their providers to have contingency plans during and after disasters. (source)

Those surveyed reported the following health system issues:

  • the inability to access medications
  • the need for respiratory equipment requiring electricity
  • closed medical facilities
  • absent doctors
  • the inability to reach 911 services by telephone

Interruption of utilities was another cause. Residents went for a long period of time without electricity, cell service, and running water. Many of the survey respondents are still without utilities. Waterborne illnesses have been rampant. The NRDC website reports:

Our patients still lack access to potable water. Even now, they are presenting with illnesses related to drinking water contamination at greater rates than doctors were seeing prior to Hurricane Maria. These diseases include gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, and dermatological conditions such as dermatitis, scabies and pediculosis. Some of our patients have tested positive for shigellosis. Since Maria, we have also seen several cases of leptospirosis—a relatively rare bacterial infection in humans, commonly transmitted by allowing fresh water that has been contaminated by animal urine (often from rats) to come in contact with the skin, eyes, or with the mucous membranes. This condition usually causes heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure, and most sufferers die if they are not treated quickly.  Waterborne diseases are still present as a significant health risk to our patients six months after Maria. (source)

Water preparedness is probably the most important prep you can undertake in the event of a long-term disaster like this one.

The Puerto Rican government refuses to release further statistics

Officials in Puerto Rico have not released mortality data since December 2017 and it appears that all requests for this data have been denied.

It’s incredibly important from a preparedness point of view to have an accurate death toll, as well as an accounting of the prevalent causes of the deaths. Without that data, future responses will suffer.

The NEJM article concludes:

As the United States prepares for its next hurricane season, it will be critical to review how disaster-related deaths will be counted, in order to mobilize an appropriate response operation and account for the fate of those affected. (source)

Here’s what preppers can learn

In a longterm disaster, you cannot depend on 911. You should be asking yourself these questions:

If you’re anything like most Americans, you may find that you have some work to do before the next series of natural disasters rolls around.


Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • So.. hurricanes are a regular annual event in the Caribbean. Do people have sudden memory loss.. every year!!?? As in, ZERO preparation and total dependency on government? Let Darwin sort these people out.

  • While NEJM is pharma supported, I do believe their numbers are closer to reality than what the government is reporting

  • There are people who were taken by storm waters and washed away. No one will ever know the totals until all the people are accounted for.

  • Daisy, thank you so much for being who you are. The fact that you owned up to the mistake with the picture and didn’t quietly remove it saying nothing is truly refreshing. I sincerely appreciate your values of honesty, integrity, quality. This is one of the many reasons I will continue to remain a supporter. Thank you again.

  • A real problem we have in this country is the huge number of migrants into the S.E. coastal areas. I will use my eldest sister as an example. Retired and moved to a small community on the gulf coast of Florida the winter of ’16-’17. A nice location……. elevation 3 feet above mean high tide, 1.5 miles from open water….
    So along comes Irma.
    We’re chatting via text when the storm turned north toward Cuba. I ask her what her plans and preps were. NADA. She’s been in the mountains of NY her entire life and never considered it. Oops.
    So I give her a list of supplies to buy, as in yesterday. Nope – stores have been vacuumed clean of water, dried food, everything. The natives got there before her. Same situation at Lowes/HomeCheapo/Etc. Plywood, screw guns, sand bags. Gone. And the inland routes are getting really busy northbound.
    In the meantime I was on Amazon destroying my prime membership. Camping gear: sleeping bag, tarps, a pump style water filter, small cook set, butane rocket stove + fuel, a couple 5 gal water bobs, a couple weeks worth of mountain house, FREEZE DRIED COFFEE, solar/battery/crank radio with usb outlets, and some led headlamps. Lastly a small pack to put it all in. The very minimum in my opinion to ride out a local disaster. Paid huge $$ for next day while the trucks were still running.
    She was able to make arrangements to stay at her ex’s 30 miles inland, so all the stuff shipped there.
    She got lucky.
    She would not have survived riding it out, and left too late to get far enough north to do any good. Lots of flood damage, almost to the roof. It was cheaper for insurance to tear the buildings down and rebuild.
    The moral of my long winded babbling? Take a long, hard, stone cold look at your situation, think about all the events, natural or man-made you could be susceptible to. Rank them in order of probability, and level of danger each one represents. Then prepare your resources accordingly. Concentrate on the high probability issues, but do not neglect the unlikely ones.

  • Daisy, after the major hurricane in Texas, the government was in a frenzy talking about what to do while people were dying. So the people of Texas said to hell with the government and went to work. The people got their boats and went out and started to save people, taking them to safety so they had a chance. Yes, the government played a role but if the Texans had done nothing, the death toll would have been much, much worse.

    So as you so correctly point out, relying on the government can be a fatal mistake. People need to return to being self reliant to the greatest extent possible. For those who are incapable of being self reliant, I hope the government can help them, but most of us should prepare for any foreseeable disaster by relying on ourselves, our friends, and those in our network on whom we trust, placing no expectation that the government will provide any assistance whatsoever.

    As part of those preparations, we should also be prepared to protect what we have from looters as we have seen what happened in New Orleans when a disaster struck, leaving law enforcement overwhelmed and unable to provide even the most minimum level of security for the citizens stuck in the city.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

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