Almost one year ago — on September 10, 2017 Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico.
But, it was only a few weeks ago that the Puerto Rican government finally revised its estimate for the disaster’s death toll: They now say that the storm and its effects killed around 2,975 people, up from previous estimates of only 64.
The revised numbers come from a study done by the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University. The research team used a combination of data and interviews to come to understand how many people were actually killed by Hurricane Maria and in its aftermath.
The Puerto Rican government is now required to make its data on deaths publicly available, thanks to a lawsuit filed by CNN and the Puerto Rican Center for Investigative Journalism back in June of this year.
The data shows that there was certainly a spike in deaths in September of 2017, the month that the storm hit the island. In the six months before the storm, the average monthly deaths in Puerto Rico was around 2,400; in the six months afterward, the average was 2,800, reflecting a 17 percent increase.
In the month after the storm, even when death toll estimates were well under 100 people, BuzzFeed reported that crematoriums on the island were seeing surges in the number of cremations because it was cheaper than a traditional burial, a good indicator that the storm had caused more deaths than the government admitted. The recently available data confirms that trend as well.
The figure below shows a spike in cremation funerals in the wake of the storm, which shot up almost 45 percent between August 2017, the month before the storm, and September 2017.
Bushwick has deep connections to La Isla del Encanto. 24,000 residents, or around 18% of the neighborhood, identifies as Puerto Rican— which is the highest number of any neighborhood in Brooklyn. In the aftermath of the storm, Bushwick residents rallied to support the island by organizing donation drop-offs sites and hosting fundraising events.
New York City overall “has the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world,” according to New York City Planning.
So that’s your fast fact of the week, Bushwick. Have a question about the neighborhood that you want us to try and answer using data? Leave a comment below!
Cover image courtesy of NASA