A new project at the Earth Institute aims to account for all those who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, including those who died as an indirect result.

How do we fully account for the people killed by Hurricane Katrina? Should we count the kidney dialysis patient who died when treatment was interrupted? What about a despondent evacuee who committed suicide months after leaving New Orleans? Or the suspected looter shot in the street?

More importantly, what happens to our understanding of the storm's impact on society if these and other uncounted are added to the list of those who drowned?

These are the questions John Mutter, deputy director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, hopes to answer through a new project that seeks to compile an online list of all Gulf Coast residents who died as a result of direct and indirect effects of the storm, and as a result of the victims' social standing or decisions made by policy makers.

"Socially marginalized people are always at greatest physical risk because they occupy the riskiest environments," Mutter wrote in a recent article about Katrina deaths. "They live on steep, land-slide prone slopes of the barrios that surround major cities in poor countries. They live in swamps and flood-prone riverbanks of urban peripheries. They live in poorly built houses that collapse easily when shaken by earthquakes or a wrecked by flood waters. They lived in the 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Mutter and research assistant  Amatullah R'id compiled their list by reviewing obituaries and coroners' lists. They followed up with calls to family members, churches, and social  service organizations to build a more comprehensive picture of each victim.

Mutter and R'id are reaching out to the affected communities, asking for friends and relatives to contribute information and revise existing information about those who died in New Orleans or elsewhere.

"More than one year later, the human and economic consequences  of Katrina including the causes and circumstances of deaths attributable to this catastrophic event - have still not been fully clarified,"  said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. "This work will reveal critical information about the true human toll of a natural megadisaster, providing closure to families and critical insight to disaster response planners."

Church in the 9'th WardTo date, Mutter and R'id have collected more than 1,250 names, nearly 25 percent of which have yet to be accounted for officially. A report by the Louisiana Family Assistance Center, a group that was formed to help locate the missing, puts the total dead at 1,460, with 135 still missing as of August.

According to R'id, however, this total does not include the estimated 246 people who died in Mississippi and Texas - more than 100 of which she and Mutter have been able to confirm through official and unofficial sources.

The difficulty they have encountered in determining whether an individual died directly or indirectly of causes related to the storm points to an inherent weakness in our understanding of how natural disasters affect society. Mutter believes that, until we answer these questions and account for every victim of Katrina - whether they died at home in  New Orleans or with relatives in California - we will never be fully prepared for the next storm. "We can't understand any disaster from just the natural perspective," said Mutter. "Blaming nature for what happens abdicates us from our moral responsibility to help people.

About The Earth Institute
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ColumbiaUniversity is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit

Hurricane Katrina
Deceased Victims List


Total Records: 1889
Number of Missing: 595
Number of Deceased: 1294
Number of John Does: 6
Number of Jane Does: 3
Number of Jane/John Does: 84

Breakdown of Location of Residence
New Orleans, LA: 914
Gulfport, MS: 9
Biloxi, MS: 20
Houston, TX: 3
Hancock County, MS: 16
Other: 462

Breakdown of Race
African American: 830
Caucasian: 553
Hispanic: 36
Native American: 6
Asian / Pacific Islander: 14
Other: 0
No Race Specified: 444

Breakdown of Gender

Male: 953
Female: 831
No Gender Specified: 106

Breakdown of Age
over 75: 560
65 - 74: 185
45 - 64: 490
25 - 44: 257
1 - 24: 139
less than 1: 9
No Age Specified:                                    249

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