Friday, May 11, 2007

From late March: Katrina Death Toll Passes 4,000

Robert Lindsay, who's been tracking the Katrina death toll figures for quite a while, wrote on March 30 about testimony by Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Health Department, at a March 13 hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations ("Post Katrina Health Care: Continuing Concerns and Immediate Needs in the New Orleans Region"). Lindsay:
...Residents reported observing a larger than usual number of death notices in the newspaper, even long after Katrina and into 2006. At the same time, even months after the storm, residents reported going to more funerals than they ever had.

These anecdotal reports caused Stephens and a team to undertake a study to count the number of death notices in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and compare it to a reference year which would serve as a baseline. 2003 was chosen as a reference year. The data can be seen on page nine of the testimony linked above.

In the first six months of 2003, 5,544 deaths were counted. In the first six months of 2006, 7,902 were counted, an increase of 2,358 deaths over baseline in the post-Katrina period. Based on this, we will assign 2,358 deaths as caused by the accelerated death rates that occurred in New Orleans even long after the storm.

Although the population of New Orleans is only 1/2 what it was prior to the storm, the obituaries covered not only New Orleans but also included many of the refugees tossed about to various parts of the country.

Based on this new information, we can add the previous toll of 1,723 to the new post-Katrina figure of 2,358 to posit a new unofficial death toll of 4,081.
(Link to Lindsay's tally of 1,723 added). Dr. Stephens' testimony can be read here (Acrobat .PDF document), the hearing can be viewed here (.wvx file).

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