JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Deadly forces like flooding and airborne debris grab headlines but the deaths directly caused during the storm don't always tell the entire story,
History shows the number of indirect deaths are almost as large as the number of direct deaths.
But the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico blows away that statistic according to a Harvard report that estimates 4,645 people died as a direct or indirect result of the Category 4 storm.
At least one-third perished in Hurricane Maria because of delayed or interrupted medical care. The staggering loss claimed 73 times more lives in Puerto Rico than the official death toll of 64 between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, 2017.
A review of storm-related reports and databases for 59 U.S. tropical cyclones from the past half-century showed cardiovascular was the leading indirect killer long after storms passed.
The loss of electricity was noted in many cases for failing life-sustaining medical equipment.
While flooding kills the most during the storm, after the storm’s passage people die from falls in the dark or down stairs, house fires, CO poisoning, electrocution, and vehicle accidents associated with inoperative traffic lights.
Evacuating and being evacuated also accounted for a significant number of indirect deaths.
Indirect fatalities increased generally with older people. More men than women succumbed from indirect causes by about 58% to 42%.