Study: Hurricane Maria Killed for Months After Hitting Puerto Rico

According to new research, the tragic impact of Hurricane Maria lingered for months after the storm hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, and at far greater magnitude than the federal government has acknowledged.

March 5, 2018, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Puerto Rico

Road signs plead for help in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, pictured in October 2017. | Sara Armas / Shutterstock

"Two months after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, scores of people were still dying in its aftermath," reports Milton Carrero.

Alexis Santos, a demographer at Pennsylvania State University, conducted the analysis with data from the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics. Santos places the total number of deaths in September, October, and November at 1,230.

The number of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria raises troubling questions about the federal government's approach to the storm. As Carrero explains, "[w]hen President Trump visited Puerto Rico two weeks after the storm, he used the official death toll of 16 as evidence that his administration had been highly effective in dealing with the tragedy." The federal government has since adjusted the death toll, eventually maxing out the number at its current level of 64 on December 9. Obviously, Santos's research stands as a stark rebuttal of the government's narrative about the fallout from the storm. 

The federal government's lack of attention to the lasting effects of the storm also stand in contrast to the creation of the Mayor Exchange, which Kristin Musulin reports will "connect mayors of U.S. mainland cities with mayors in Puerto Rico for guidance and support in rebuilding the island following Hurricane Maria."

"An estimated 40 mayors are expected to participate in the Exchange in the coming weeks, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez," according to Musulin, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has already been paired with Ponce Mayor Maria Meléndez.

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