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Brainiac

Correcting the death toll after Hurricane Maria

Mourners attend a funeral in Corozal, Puerto Rico, in 2017.
Mourners attend a funeral in Corozal, Puerto Rico, in 2017.jessica rinaldi/globe staff

2,975: That, according to a new official estimate, is the number of Americans who lost their lives due to Hurricane Maria, which clobbered Puerto Rico last year. The initial death toll of 64 was drastically revised after a team from George Washington University used a mathematical model based on historical patterns, with adjustments made for current demographics, researchers said. The destruction of the island’s power grid, for example, led to an above-average number of deaths in the months following the storm, a fact that initial estimates failed to take into account. The report blasted the Puerto Rican government for “inadequate preparedness and personnel training for crisis and emergency risk communication.” The researchers identified another key reason why the early estimate was too low: Doctors haven’t been adequately trained about what to put on death certificates in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

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