Why Hurricane Maria Killed Thousands, Not Dozens

On its own, Hurricane Maria doesn’t seem to have killed a large segment of Puerto Rico’s population. The real culprit, it seems, was the loss of electricity, water and cellphone service in the following weeks and months after the hurricane’s impact, which fatally deprived thousands of the island’s residents of the medical care they desperately needed.

Puerto Rico’s official government death toll from Maria is 64, but the real number is many times higher, according to a study published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. At least 4,645 people died as an indirect result of the hurricane and its sweeping devastationresearchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have estimated.

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