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Vox Sentences: Hurricane Maria was far deadlier than we thought

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Hurricane Maria’s death toll was around 4,600, according to a new Harvard study; Italy’s political turmoil roils the stock market.

Hurricane Maria’s death toll is likely over 4,600, new study says

Puerto Rico Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • The death toll from Hurricane Maria is likely much higher than previously estimated and twice as high as the death count from Hurricane Katrina, a new Harvard study has found. [NPR / Richard Harris]
  • The 2017 hurricane that slammed into Puerto Rico could be the deadliest natural disaster in US history. The study found that about 4,645 deaths were caused by the hurricane and the slow recovery that came after it. [Washington Post / Arelis R. Hernández and Laurie McGinley]
  • The study found many of the deaths were from delays in medical care getting to the island and lack of electricity and other utilities, meaning that they may have been able to be prevented with a faster response. [The New Republic / Emily Atkin]
  • Researchers detailed their methods in the study. They surveyed about 3,300 randomly chosen households across the island in January and February, asking them about deaths in the family that occurred between September 20 and December 31, as well as the factors that could have contributed to each death. [New England Journal of Medicine / Nishant Kishore et al]
  • Researchers also asked about damage to buildings including homes and access to basic necessities like food, water, electricity, and health care. They then compared the mortality statistics to ones from 2016, finding the death rate went up about 62 percent in a year. [New England Journal of Medicine / Nishant Kishore et al]
  • The study also shines a light on the lack of transparency from the government. The Puerto Rican government ceased sharing mortality statistics with the general public late last year and didn’t work with researchers as they tried to get information. [NYT / Sheri Fink]
  • In fact, the official government death toll is just 64, a stark difference from the new estimate, which is over 70 times higher. [BBC]

Italy’s political problems are creating financial shock waves

  • Stock markets shuddered on Tuesday in reaction to some fresh political chaos in Italy, and some serious uncertainty about it’s relationship to the European Union and the euro currency. [CNBC / Patti Domm]
  • Italy’s government is still taking shape after March elections, pitting populist politicians against the country’s President Sergio Mattarella. Mattarella used his power to veto Euro-skeptic Paolo Savona from being Italy’s finance minister. New elections could be called, and more politicians who favor leaving the EU could be elected. [Washington Post / Ishaan Tharoor]
  • Italy has the third-largest economy in the European Union, and an exit would be devastating. The markets reacted to this controversy and increased uncertainty about the future of the euro. The currency’s value dropped today as investors rushed to buy safer currencies like the US dollar and Japanese yen. [WSJ / Jon Sindreu and Mike Bird]
  • The impact on the Dow Jones was noticeable; the Dow Jones industrial average took its biggest one-day hit since April 24. [USA Today / Adam Shell]


  • You may think you’re doing a good deed by sorting your recycling. But even if you do everything right, there’s still a chance it will end up in a landfill. Blame China’s rules on “foreign garbage.” [NYT / Livia Albeck-Ripka]
  • A short history of incredibly ugly sandals and why we keep on wearing them (both on the sidewalk and the runway). [Racked / Rebecca Jennings]
  • Grounding a flight is really expensive, but what are the costs and risks for ignoring medical advice when someone becomes critically ill at 30,000 feet? [Bloomberg / Ivan Levingston]
  • Historic Ellicott City, Maryland, was slammed by floodwaters for the second time in two years. The question on the mind of many residents and business owners: Is it worth rebuilding a third time? [USA Today / Christal Hayes]


“The urge to smoke is so strong. Sometimes I tell myself I’m going to stop but it’s just me lying to myself.” [Fredie Blom, a 114-year-old farm laborer, on why he might give up smoking at his age, to the BBC / Mohammed Allie]

Watch this: The culture war between doctors and midwives, explained

A deeper look at history explains why the US falls behind other affluent countries in using midwives. [YouTube / Ranjani Chakraborty and Nina Martin]

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