Independent Study Reports 2,975 Deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria

Study from George Washington University researchers 

An independent study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government in February estimates Hurricane Maria caused 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico in the six months following the storm. The study, led by researchers at George Washington University, was commissioned after public pressure that the government’s initial hurricane death toll was underreported. The study found Hurricane Maria lead to an excess number of deaths around the island, estimating 22 percent more deaths occurred in the six months following Hurricane Maria than if the hurricane had not struck the island.

A woman lights a candle inside a pair of shoes that were among hundreds displayed in memory of those killed by Hurricane Maria in front of the Puerto Rican Capitol, in San Juan in June.
(Source: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images/

Researchers found the Puerto Rican government had inadequate disaster communications plans and did a poor job communicating the death toll. Health and forensic officials on the island were also unsure how to document hurricane related deaths.

The GWU team believes their report is more accurate than previous reports and studies on the hurricanes aftermath because of access to government mortality data and death certificates and further accounting of additional variables such as post-hurricane departure. Researchers hope the report and its recommendations will improve Puerto Rico’s resilience and disaster preparedness.


Read more about the study and its findings here.