SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – A new study claims that Hurricane Maria caused more deaths in Puerto Rico in the three months following the devastation of the island, mainly due to medication or medical problems Care.
The researchers looked at a small sample of neighborhoods and estimated that up to 4,600 more deaths than usual occurred, much more than previous studies suggested. At least one independent expert has challenged the methods and number in the new study.
"This estimate could turn out to be a thousand," said Donald Berry, professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Associated Press in an e-mail.
The research was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine. It's the latest study to analyze how many people died in the US during or after the September 4 storm in September 2017, causing more than an estimated $ 100 billion in damage. The researchers led by Harvard University called the official figure of 64 deaths a "substantial underestimation".
Maria caused the longest blackout in US history, leaving the entire island powerless of 3.3 million people, including those in hospitals and nursing homes that rely on ventilators. The researchers surveyed 3,299 households earlier this year and used the results to extrapolate to the entire island. They found that 31% reported malfunctions in medical services and more than 14% said they had no access to medicines.
"Indirect deaths resulting from the worsening of chronic illness or delayed medical treatment may not be recorded on death certificates," researchers in the study said.
They calculated 4,645 more people died in the three months after Maria compared with the same period in 2016. One of the researchers, Rafael Irizarry from Harvard University, told the AP that the estimate is uncertain because of its limited size, but that the study still provides valuable information, including how some people died ,
Previous studies have found that the number of direct and indirect hurricane-related deaths in Puerto Rico is higher than the official toll, including a report from 2017 that there were nearly 500 more deaths on the island in September.
In late February, the Governor of Puerto Rico announced that a team of experts from George Washington University would conduct an independent investigation to determine the number of Hurricane Maria deaths.
A preliminary report was due in May but Puerto Rico officials announced last week that the team was demanding more time. The director of this study did not return any messages for comment.
The government of Puerto Rico issued a statement on the study on Tuesday, saying it welcomed the research and would analyze it.
"As the world knows, the magnitude of this tragic catastrophe caused by Hurricane Maria has caused many casualties and we have always expected the number to be higher than previously reported," said Carlos Mercader, Executive Director of Puerto Rico administration of affairs.
In the meantime, some media organizations have gone to court to obtain more accurate information on the deaths reported in Puerto Rico last year. Demographers have said Puerto Rico had an average of 82 deaths per day in the two weeks prior to Maria.
The number rose to 117 a day after the storm hit the island in mid-September and then fell below the norm in October.