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Hurricane Maria’s Victims – 2,975: Who Were They, How Did they Die?

Editor’s Note: CTLatinoNews.com is providing this list to give our readers a more detailed understanding of those who lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Maria. As you read their names and how they died below, we all begin to understand more deeply the impact on the island and those  who lost their family and friends. This database was assembled by the reputable Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism. 

About the investigation

This is a database of people who died due to Hurricane Maria.

Over the last year, reporters from Quartz and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) collected hundreds of stories from Puerto Ricans who say their relatives died because of Hurricane Maria but were overlooked by the government. With the Associated Press, names of the dead were matched against government death records released by the Puerto Rican government in response to a lawsuit by CPI. Together, we interviewed about 300 families of the dead and reviewed the records of nearly 200 others using the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s criteria for certifying disaster-related deaths.

Most of the deaths in the project’s database are considered indirect, meaning they were not caused by winds or flooding but rather made more likely because of factors like the lack of power, fresh water and medical supplies after the storm. The project did not interview the patients’ doctors and the death certificates themselves make no link to Maria. The Puerto Rican government acknowledges that hundreds or thousands of deaths should have been classified as storm-related but weren’t, due to doctors’ lack of training on how to correctly fill out death certificates. Participation in this survey was voluntary; therefore, the sample is not representative of Puerto Rico’s demography and was not used to extrapolate trends in causes of death and demographics.

The project analyzed mortality databases from the Demographic Registry of Puerto Rico from 2014 to 2017 to calculate changes in demographics and cause of death rates across the whole population, using ICD-10 standard grouping for 50 cause-of-death rankings.

Deaths in…

  • September 2017 (142)
  • October (189)
  • November (71)
  • December (42)
  • January 2018 (17)
  • February (9)
  • March and after (6)

Deaths caused by …

  • Causes directly related to the hurricane (73)
  • Damages caused by flood, landslides, etc. (12)
  • Lack of electricity (158)
  • Lack of food or water (24)
  • Lack of access to medical care (95)
  • Lack of access to communications (55)
René Rodolfo Acosta Vélez
Date of death:
2017-11-15
95 years old
Place of death: San Juan
Clinical cause of death: Stroke, not specified as hemorrhage or infarction
Wilfredo Lanausse Soto
Date of death:
2017-09-23
89 years old
Place of death: Guayama
Clinical cause of death: Other Causes

What happened: Don Tito was hospitalized during the hurricane. When he came back home and saw all the destruction caused by hurricane to his house, he had a heart attack. The area was flooded, his house was made with wood and zinc. The wind destroyed the ceiling. There was no electricity or water.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family

Date of death:
2018-02-01
72 years old
Place of death: Carolina
Clinical cause of death: Cerebrovascular diseases
Iluminada González
Date of death:
2017-10-08
84 years old
Place of death: Juana Díaz
Clinical cause of death: Cerebrovascular diseases

What happened: After the hurricane she was taken from nursing home in Villalba to Tres Reyes, in Juana Díaz, because they didn’t had resources to treat her. That’s why she died in Juana Díaz. She was transferred without any document, like her medical record and information about the care she needed. The tube for intravenous feeding got broken, but she was not taken to gastroenterologist. There were landslides behind the nursing home. So there was no access to medical care.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Date of death:
2017-10-14
77 years old
Place of death: Arecibo
Clinical cause of death: Septicemia

What happened: There was no transportation because Lares was destroyed. When they reached the hospital, the medical equipment was damaged. There were no drugs and the patient had a heart attack.

Source: Response to online survey
Date of death:
2017-10-02
92 years old
Place of death: Aguadilla
Clinical cause of death: Essential (primary hypertension and hypertensive renal disease

What happened: She was in a nursing home in Aguadilla. She got ill and was difficult to take her to the hospital because there was no diesel or gas. There were also no open hospitals in Aguadilla, so she was taken to San Germán. The day after arriving at the hospital, she died. On October 2 we received a phone call to be told that she was dead. They said that she died of a lung condition, but for me, her death was related to the hurricane because they could not take her from home to give her medical treatment and no hospitals were open in Aguadilla.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Date of death:
2018-06-09
88 years old
Place of death: Toa Alta
Clinical cause of death: Other Causes

What happened: In November 2017, her mental health deteriorated rapidly. The darkness caused her deterioriation and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In April I took her to a nursing home because she needed permanent supervision. On June 9, 2018, she had a heart attack and died. Before the hurricane she didn’t have any health condition, just hypertension which was under control with medication.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Gerardo Rojas Cruz
Date of death:
2017-09-26
56 years old
Place of death: Comerío
Clinical cause of death: Diseases of heart

What happened: The incident happened six days after hurricane Maria. He was getting ready to report to work when he told me he couldn’t breath. I immediately took him to the hospital but when we got there, his condition worsened and he died.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Faustino Báez Ramos
Date of death:
2017-09-24
78 years old
Place of death: Comerío
Clinical cause of death: Diabetes mellitus

What happened: After the hurricane he did not wake up. There was no way to take him to a hospital. The roads were blocked because of some landslides.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Flor De María Del Toro Pagán
Date of death:
2017-09-26
86 years old
Place of death: Ponce
Clinical cause of death: Septicemia

What happened: The patient was at the intensive care unit where there was only a fan on a table that barely moved the air. To make matters worse, given the darkness caused by blackouts, the curtains on the windows were open, increasing the intense heat. She had no air conditioning and she was located near a window. She caught an infection as a result of the conditions in that unit.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Date of death:
2017-10-12
43 years old
Place of death: Manatí
Clinical cause of death: Other Causes

What happened: My husband was admitted to the hospital with a strong pain in the stomach the day after Hurricane Maria. When we reached the hospital everyone looked like zombies. They were attending to patients but thinking about their own problems. They took a CT and found the swollen liver and gallbladder. Also found low hemoglobin, low red and white blood cells, low platelets. The power generator was damaged several times and the medical tests expected immediately were not done until some weeks later. We stayed 25 days in the hospital. Two weeks after he died, some tests results arrived. My husband had cancer in the blood. A treatable disease became a death sentence for not having been treated with caution and interest.

Source: Response to online survey, followed by interview with family
Ramón Cruz Laboy
Date of death:
2018-01-24
75 years old
Place of death: Yabucoa
Clinical cause of death: Accidents (unintentional injuries

What happened: He had a liver condition and he never got the medicine he needed approved. A short while after the hurricane and after a fall, his condition deteriorated. I took him to my house. He came in and out from hospital. Before the hurricane, he used to walk and go out despite his condition. He did his life. The knock on the knee and hip affected him deeply. He was alive and well before the hurricane. I think if he had not had that fall he could be alive today.

Source: Interview with family
José Román Álvarez Fonseca
Date of death:
2018-04-25
78 years old
Place of death: Caguas
Clinical cause of death: Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis

What happened: He had a pacemaker with defibrillator. He had a surgery in 2009. After the storm, while removing rubble from his house, he hit his leg in the courtyard. He had a surgery in order to remove a clot from his leg. After that his health deteriorated . We remained without electricity until February 26. The heat suffocated him and every time his health was aggravated. He was bedridden. He spent 13 days in hospice care. He needed an oxygen machine that could run with a power generator. At the end, his lungs failed.

Source: Interview with family
Date of death:
2018-04-22
79 years old
Place of death: Yabucoa
Clinical cause of death: Diseases of heart

What happened: He got depressed after the storm. A fallen tree destroyed half of the house. He didn’t want help from anyone. In April, he still had no electricity and for that reason he was living in his car and slept there. The house was uninhabitable. That ongoing discomfort caused him anguish and depression. Two days before his death he felt bad but he did not go to the hospital. He died on Friday but nobody found him that day. On Sunday It was me who found him in the car.

Source: Interview with family
Date of death:
2018-04-30
85 years old
Place of death: Humacao
Clinical cause of death: Other Causes

What happened: She lived with me; she was bedridden. We had no electricity and we depended on power generator. She needed a breathing machine and it’s not the same with a power generator. We couldn’t keep the air conditioning on all the time. There were many difficulties. She got a cold and I took her to the hospital. There she died. The electricity didn’t came back until June 11.

Source: Interview with family
Date of death:
2018-05-23
82 years old
Place of death: Yabucoa
Clinical cause of death: Other Causes

What happened: She had respiratory difficulties, Alzheimer’s and her liver did longer worked. She always needed oxygen with the breathing machine but we had no electricity. I had to buy a power generator. She got worse. We had no air conditioning. With the generator, things did not work well. Everything got damaged. A power generator was not enough for keeping the breathing machine working.

Source: Interview with family
Date of death:
2017-10-25
95 years old
Place of death: Vieques
Clinical cause of death: Alzheimers disease

What happened: She needed an oxygen machine but she didn’t have electricity. Finally we got a power generator on October 18, but it only lasted seven days with her. She needed her oxygen. Her health absolutely deteriorated as a result of not having it. She had no air conditioning either. She had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but was receiving good treatment. Before the hurricane she was fine, given her condition.

Source: Interview with family
Aída Ramona Cruz Cardona
Date of death:
2017-12-27
54 years old
Place of death: Ponce
Clinical cause of death: Malignant neoplasms

What happened: Lack of medical attention.

Source: Interview with family

One Response to Hurricane Maria’s Victims – 2,975: Who Were They, How Did they Die?

  1. Sandy Cruz-Serrano says:

    Thank you for this detailed accounting of the deaths of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. I cannot even imagine the pain and trauma of these families as they watched their loved ones slip away in such dire conditions. To ignore those deaths is a sin in my eyes. My heart and prayers continue to go to our people on the Island.

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