Mourners carry the casket of Wilfredo Torres Rivera, 58, who died October 13 after jumping off a bridge into a lake, three weeks after Hurricane Maria, on October 19, 2017 in Utuado, Puerto Rico. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Officials still don't have an agreed upon number of storm-related casualties from Hurricane Maria, which slammed the island of Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, causing massive destruction to the island's infrastructure and knocking out the entire power grid.

Why it matters: Now a new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday, finds a far higher estimate for the actual death toll, 4,645, than the official estimate of just 64.

Context: The death toll from this study means that Hurricane Maria killed more people than Hurricane Katrina did in 2005. That storm killed at least 1,833. It also eclipses the death toll on the day of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which killed 2,977.

Details:

  • The study found that the post-hurricane mortality rate was 14.3 deaths per 1,000 persons, which was a 62 percent increase from the pre-storm mortality rate during the same period in 2016.
  • Researchers say their estimated death toll is "likely to be an underestimate."
  • The study, by a group of Harvard University researchers as well as experts in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, found that the death toll from the Category 4 storm was actually 70 times higher than the official estimate.
  • The study's findings are consistent with other recent investigations that have found that storm deaths were far higher than the official count.

The big picture: The biggest factors leading to the higher death toll were disrupted medical services, including access to medication and medical facilities, the study found.

The government of Puerto Rico has requested an independent review of death-registry data to arrive at a more accurate official count of storm-related deaths, but the timing of this is unknown.

How they did it: Researchers surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico to arrive at an independent mortality rate for all causes after the hurricane. They calculated excess deaths by comparing post-hurricane mortality rates with the same period the year before, when there was no major storm. According to the study, the death toll may have exceeded 5,000.

Between the lines: Public health experts remain deeply skeptical of the low death count in Puerto Rico from the most intense hurricane to hit that island in more than 80 years. This new study is the latest to dramatically increase the number of deaths, but it's unclear when the official count will be changed.

Go deeper: Thirty years of Atlantic hurricanes

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 33,560,877 — Total deaths: 1,006,564 — Total recoveries: 23,297,593Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 7,190,036 — Total deaths: 205,974— Total recoveries: 2,809,674 — Total tests: 103,155,189Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. Politics: 7 former FDA commissioners say Trump is undermining agency's credibility
  5. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  6. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  7. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.
  8. Work: United States of burnout — Asian American unemployment spikes amid pandemic
Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The first Trump v. Biden presidential debate was a hot mess

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

This debate was like the country: Everybody’s talking. Nobody’s listening. Nothing is learned. It’s a mess.

  • We were told President Trump would be savage. Turned out, that was a gross understatement. Even the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace, got bulldozed.

Why it matters: Honestly, who the hell knows?

Pundits react to a chaotic debate: “What a dark event we just witnessed”

The first presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden in Cleveland on Tuesday night was a shouting match, punctuated by interruptions and hallmarked by name-calling.

Why it matters: If Trump aimed to make the debate as chaotic as possible with a torrent of disruptions, he succeeded. Pundits struggled to make sense of what they saw, and it's tough to imagine that the American people were able to either.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!