Officials in Puerto Rico greatly underestimated the death toll from Hurricane Maria — here’s why

Business continuity plans vital in light of weather events

The number of storm and flood insurance claims in New Zealand has increased by 56% over the past three years and this has been accompanied by a significant spike in the cost of claims.

NZbrokers chief executive Jo Mason said New Zealand small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) needed to do more to prepare for adverse weather events, as the new industry figures showed the cost of insurance claims had increased by 70% in the three years.

Much of the country is bracing for a rough 48 hours as a storm  with the intensity of an ex-tropical cyclone sweeps across the North Island and top of the South Island.

Civil Defence is on high alert as the top of the North Island prepares for a pummelling from ferocious winds, torrential rain and enormous waves.

Ms Mason said the  Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, partly funded by the World Bank, ranked New Zealand at a “high hazard” level for most flooding and cyclone events.

Reinsurers used area-specific data to calculate the risk profile of parts of New Zealand, which determined the cost of insurance premiums.

“While we were already rated as a high risk for seismic…


Hurricane Harvey survivors feel grief, distress months later

Deb Eberhart couldn’t sleep and was easily moved to tears as she worked to coordinate repairs to her Houston home in the months after flooding from Hurricane Harvey besieged it with 3 feet (0.91 meters) of water.

She clenched her jaw so hard that it hurt. She couldn’t eat.

“I thought: ‘Well, I’m not handling things as well as I should be,'” the 69-year-old retired teacher said…


Officials in Puerto Rico greatly underestimated the death toll from Hurricane Maria — here’s why

hurricane maria1
A woman tries to walks out from her house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

“If you don’t get away from those areas, you are going to die.” That phrase concluded Puerto Rico Secretary of Public Safety Héctor Pesquera’s press conference before Hurricane Maria.

Three months after the storm, he is one of the fiercest protectors of the official death count. As of Dec. 29, the Department of Public Safety had certified 64 deaths due to Hurricane Maria.

However, estimates reported by CNN, The New York Times and others tell a very different story.

I was part of the team of demographers that developed the first independent estimates of excess deaths, with the objective of informing the public. Like the estimates published by those media outlets, our numbers contrasted significantly with the official figure.

The most shocking results from our study suggest that deaths in September and October were 25 percent above the historical patterns – with about 1,085 added deaths following the hurricane.

Determining the number of excess deaths after a natural disaster is not only a mathematical exercise. Undercounting deaths reduces the attention to the crisis Puerto Ricans live day by day. It can also delay international recovery efforts and the approval of policies to help those who need it the most….


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