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Loss of Life Caused by the Flooding of New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina: Analysis of the Relationship Between Flood Characteristics and Mortality

Citation: Jonkman SN, Maaskant B, Boyd E, Levitan ML. “Loss of life caused by the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Analysis of the relationship between flood characteristics and mortality.” Risk Analysis 2009; 29: 676?98.

In this article a preliminary analysis of the loss of life caused by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans metropolitan area is presented. The hurricane caused more than 1,100 fatalities in the state of Louisiana. A preliminary data set that gives information on the recovery locations and individual characteristics for 771 fatalities has been analyzed. One-third of the analyzed fatalities occurred outside the flooded areas or in hospitals and shelters in the flooded area. These fatalities were due to the adverse public health situation that developed after the floods. Two-thirds of the analyzed fatalities were most likely associated with the direct physical impacts of the flood and mostly caused by drowning. The majority of victims were elderly: nearly 60% of fatalities were over 65 years old. Similar to historical flood events, mortality rates were highest in areas near severe breaches and in areas with large water depths. An empirical relationship has been derived between the water depth and mortality and this has been compared with similar mortality functions proposed based on data for other flood events. The overall mortality among the exposed population for this event was approximately 1%, which is similar to findings for historical flood events. Despite the fact that the presented results are preliminary they give important insights into the determinants of loss of life and the relationship between mortality and flood characteristics.

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