Over 50 Katrina Evacuees Have Died in Texas

9-14-05 - At least 53 Hurricane Katrina evacuees from the New Orleans area have died since coming to Texas, medical examiners said Wednesday.

In Harris County, which includes Houston, most of the 35 deaths were from natural causes, including several heart attacks and complications from cancer. Two refugees killed themselves since an estimated 240,000 Gulf Coast residents fled to Texas because of the Aug. 29 storm.

There was one dead fetus, and ages of the adult dead ranged from 20 to 104. Many were elderly living in hospitals, hospice centers and nursing homes.

A 71-year-old man from New Orleans died inside the mass shelter at the Astrodome, and a 90-year-old woman died in the stadium parking lot.

"We think most of these people had existing conditions," said Beverly Begay, chief forensic investigator for the Harris County medical examiner's office. "Stress from the storm and the evacuation may have exacerbated their conditions."

The Dallas County medical examiner's office reported 13 deaths as of Wednesday morning, all of them natural, said chief investigator Dave Gaubatz. All were elderly and staying in nursing homes and hospitals, he said.

"Almost everybody had terminal illnesses and was over 65." Gaubatz said.

In the Houston area, two apparent suicides were reported. A 44-year-old man from Metarie, La., killed himself in a Humble hotel Sept. 4. On Saturday, a 25-year-old male from Marrero, La., took his life in a Pasadena apartment.

As of Tuesday, Austin had reported two deaths, and there was one each in San Antonio, Fort Worth and Smith County, which includes Tyler.