Final Katrina Death Toll at 4,081

Repost from the old blog. I received a lot of criticism for this, but this is still probably the best death toll for direct and indirect deaths for Hurricane Katrina out there.

I used my own total of 1,723 direct deaths combined with testimony about a study done after the hurricane that showed a huge increase in excess deaths in the period after the hurricane was over. The resulting total of 4,081 is probably the most accurate total out there for direct and indirect deaths from the storm so far, unless someone has added in some more indirect deaths. This figure came under some criticism, but it is based on the solid epidemiological theory of excess mortality.

My official death toll of 1,723, representing deaths due to immediate and direct effects of the storm, has not changed since August 22, 2006. However, we now have a fascinating document that comes from testimony delivered to Congress, which has caused me to raise the total deaths from Katrina due to direct and immediate plus delayed effects to 4,081.

For those who are interested, a list of 1,195 people who were killed in the hurricane is available here.

The testimony was part of a hearing titled Post Katrina Health Care: Continuing Concerns and Immediate Needs in the New Orleans Region given before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on March 13, 2007.

The list of speakers is here. Of particular interest in terms of the Katrina death toll was the testimony given by a physician, Dr. Kevin Stephens, Sr., Director pf the New Orleans Health Department.

In his testimony (pdf), Stephens points out that New Orleans already had serious public health problems before the hurricane, including large numbers of poor and uninsured people. The number of doctors has been reduced by 70% and the number of hospital beds in Orleans Parish has been reduced by 75%.

In some areas such as the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East in Orleans Parish and Chalmette and other places in St. Bernard Parish, residents have no access to health care whatsoever. Mental health is another serious problem: even last year, 20% of residents reported suffering from severe stress and depression.

Yet the number of mental health inpatient beds has been reduced by 83% and the number of psychiatrists has dropped by 90%. 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. Possible causes of the excess deaths in 2006 include stress, suicide, pollution, contamination, impoverishment and the devastation of the heath sector after Katrina. For instance, the suicide rate tripled in the first 10 months after Katrina.

Thanks to Ezra Boyd of Louisiana State University for sending me this information.

Louisiana 20061: Tue., Mar. 13, 2007: 2,358
Louisiana:       Mon., Aug. 2, 2006:  1,464
Mississippi:     Tue., Jan. 24, 2006:   238
Florida:         Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:     14
Georgia:         Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:      2
Alabama:         Mon., Jan. 9, 2006:      2
Ohio2:           Wed., Aug. 31, 2005:     2
Kentucky3:       Wed., Aug. 31, 2005:     1
Total:                                4,081

Footnoted totals are controversial. Explanations for controversial totals follows:

1The explanation for the 2,358 excess deaths in the first six months of 2006 as compared to the baseline of the first six months of 2003, presumably due to various effects of Hurricane Katrina, is above. This total reflects deaths due to delayed effects, whereas the other figures all represent more immediate and direct effects of the storm.

2The two Ohio victims are Cassondra Ground, 19, of Monroeville, Ohio, and Thelma Niedzinski, 84, of Norwalk, Ohio. Both were killed in a car accident near Monroeville, Ohio on August 30, 2005. The Ohio State Highway Patrol felt that a wet road caused by Hurricane Katrina caused the car accident. See Ohioans Focus on Helping Katrina Victims, Jay Cohen, Associated Press, August 31, 2005.

3The Kentucky victim was Deanna Petsch, 10, of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. On August 29, 2005, she fell into a Hurricane Katrina-swollen ditch in Hopkinsville and drowned. See Storm Surge: State Gets Soaked, City Avoids Major Flooding, Homes, Life Lost in Hopkinsville, Sheldon S. Shafer and James Malone, The Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, August 31, 2005.

Update: This post has been linked on the always-excellent blog Majikthise and criticized in the comments there. The comments question how the 2,368 excess deaths after Katrina can possibly be attributed to Hurricane Katrina. Answer: They cannot.

But using that number is perfectly in accord with the Theory of Excess Mortality. That theory is widely used by epidemiologists, and was used by Les Roberts’ team to come up with the figure of 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the US invasion.

Dr. Gideon Polya has done a lot of work in the area of excess mortality and avoidable mortality, some of which has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Examples of his work are here, here and here.

Can we prove that anything in particular is causing excess mortality in any particular place, absent disaster or war? Nope. But something is killing people in various places at various times at an excessive rate. Anecdotal evidence indicated that many more people than normal were dying in New Orleans in the three to nine months post-Hurricane Katrina. Something was killing them.

They just didn’t up and decide that 2006 was a nice year for dying. Barring other reasonable factors, we may assume that Hurricane Katrina had something to do with the excess deaths in New Orleans. The theory and methodology used in my Katrina excess deaths post in no less rigorous than that used by Roberts, Polya and epidemiologists everywhere.

This comment in the same thread on Majikthise backs up my comments quite well.

This research takes a lot of time, and I do not get paid anything for it. If you think this website is valuable to you, please consider a a contribution to support more of this valuable research.

30 Comments

Filed under Americas, Health, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, Louisiana, Public Health, Regional, Reposts From The Old Site, South, USA, Weather

30 responses to “Final Katrina Death Toll at 4,081

  1. this is really touching and life changing..people should ralize when somthing like this happens to take it serious and not just hang around untill you acually see things happen just get out for the best and you and other will be safe..

    p.s. i love you world

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  4. Very interesting article. I had read and heard, through various sources along Mississippi coast, about the increase in suicides after Katrina in MS. Also, know of a particular situation involving an elderly couple who lost everything in Bay St. Louis. They were having to fight their insurance coHess I remember, the wife passed away right before the situation was resolved.
    Such extreme stress amid total devestation has to be considered a factor – therefore, post-disaster related deaths should be counted. My humble opinion.

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  7. shera

    Looks like the H1N1 Swine Flu will be Obama’s “Katrina” as the latest death toll has been revised to over 4,000 as of yesterday and still not enough vaccine available.

  8. Scott

    Brilliant methodology: Each death in the first 6 months of 2006 over the same period 2003 was presumed to be because of Katrina. Yea, try to get that published in a scientific journal.

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  11. The question should be asked: who is responsible for the deaths in the Superdome?

    Why did’nt they get water and ice?

    Who should be put on trial?

    A. President Bush
    B. FEMA Director Browny
    C. Governor Blanco
    D. Mayor Nagin

  12. Considering the density of the population of the flooded area and the press and government’s inability to ever tell the truth, I expect many more died. At least your figures may be a little closer to the number. Thanks for your efforts to balance the scales of honesty.

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  18. bob dobbs

    what i saw of plaquemines parrish, bay st louis, waveland and the 9th ward in sept 2005, the official 1700 is a cruel joke.

  19. Howard

    Although I do not dispute the idea that Katrina and government lack of preparedness resulted in early deaths for many of New Orleans residents, just as the H1N1 “pandemic” I find it difficult to sort out the true magnitude of the tragedy. Many deaths in the H1N1 outbreaks and, for that matter, seasonal influenza, occurs among the elderly and the debilitated. In that same fashion, a good portion of the Katrina deaths occurred in that same subset. When a 96 year old nursing home patient with multiple organ failure dies during a influenza outbreak, did he die of influenza….or 96?

    It’s just a mitigating thought in an otherwise horrific situation.

    It was a American tragedy. Furthermore, it was a national disgrace in our failure to act in a time of crises. We clearly have learned a great deal about preparedness. Perhaps we will be ready next time.

  20. Pat

    When government isn’t there for citizens, citizens stop caring about government too. When will people learn?

    The 2012 campaign has made people care less, not more, about others, and that fate of a nation is not compassionate conservatism at work.

    When justice isn’t available, protection isn’t available, aid is not available, it removes the spirit of a people better than evil ever could. In fact, to encourage self reliance, and less government, not more government, keeps the spirit of government alive – unless it is used for self indulgence, not civic endowment.

  21. Debra Wilkerson

    Robert Lindsey, I had to come to see this proven information you placed before us. Katrina victims were not taken care of the way they should have been. They had to wait so long before help actually arrived. Being a Black woman from North Carolina. I have come to realize that the truth did prevail by you and your statistics. All Southern States and its Citizens in America. Feel that the lack of help from this Country with The state of Louisiana and Mississippi should have not had to suffer the way they did and treated as if they were and spoke of as immigrants by the media. Which was disrespectful. Nobody know’s the troubles the victims and their deceased loved ones had to bare. While trying to hold on and trying to fight for their lives and dignity. Across America Afro Americans were aroused by the situations by not getting there sooner, President Bush, Especially. So I’m gonna say this. Here it is 2012 and Hurricane Sandy hit the Northern States its sad so sad. But the victims will be alright. They are being taken care of and President Obama arrived quickly. But still our Hearts still dwell on “Hurricane Katrina Victims” and their losses and having to leave and families separate from each other and transported to other states. There is no comparison between the two storms and it’s victims. The color of ones skin in the south is what we do know played a factor. The proof was when it happened and where. If one should challenge this here’s something to think about, “Never Say Never” .

  22. Tom Stevens

    It is foolish for anyone to ever depend on others, including the government, for protection and care.

  23. while this count is, no doubt, closer to the truth, there are still individuals who died who are missing from the final tallies. my dad and i were here for seven days after the storm and a woman who was with us died on day seven due to a lack of medical care. had we been rescued on day six she would be presumably be alive today. i have yet to see her name on any of the lists here in st. bernard parish. i am sure she is not the only one. thankfully president obama, with all of his shortcomings, did a creditably job in sending aid to the victims of the hurricane which struck the northeast. i truly hope and pray that no one ever has to endure another katrina type debacle as happened here on the gulf coast.

  24. There is even something more sinister about the deaths of these people, and that is for something called a Philosophy stone, the secret is that you or a person needs a thousand life sacrifice to chemistryly to( make) one. I urge all you who read this to look into this. Because i think the elects and government have these and it is said to have powers for immortality. Philosophy stone, is just like any other like emerald, tiger eye, or amethyst, any of these are easy to find, but the Philosophy stone, is almost extinct

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  26. Sharon

    I lost my brother almost 2 years ago at age 51. He was an electrician and went to New Orleans to help with the work needed after the hurricane. When he came back after working there for several months he looked as if he aged 10 years. He was never the same after that. He had to get a pace maker due to congestive heart failure and eventually passed away in 2012. There is no question that working in New Orleans contributed to his death.

  27. Bob

    What we talking about

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