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Drowning leading cause of death during Superstorm Sandy

Pa. and N.J. account for nearly 40 percent of deaths from hurricane

Drowning was the leading cause of deaths during Superstorm Sandy last fall, leading to one-third of all fatalities during the hurricane.

A report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 40 of the 117 deaths reported from the storm were caused by drowning.

New York recorded the most deaths during the storm, with 53. New Jersey, with 34, and Pennsylvania, with 12, had the second- and third-highest totals -- the two states combined account for nearly 40 percent of the storm's deaths. Other fatalities were recorded in West Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland.

After drowning, trauma from being cut, crushed or struck; poisoning; and burn or electric current were the leading causes of fatalities.

The report notes that drowning remains a leading cause of hurricane-related deaths "despite advances in hurricane warning and evacuation systems" stresses the need for residents to receive, understand and comply with evacuation messages.

About half of the drowing deaths during Sandy occurred in homes that were under mandatory evacuation orders, the report says.

"Hurricane-related drowning deaths in evacuation zones are preventable," the CDC said. "A successful evacuation depends on officials providing timely messaging to all affected persons, on persons receiving those messages, and on persons having the capacity, resources, and willingness to evacuate."

Drowning was also the top cause of death during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the CDC said. However, trauma was the leading source of fatalities during the Florida hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, and carbon-monoxide poisoning was the largest cause of death for Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Seventy-one people who died in the storm -- nearly two-thirds -- were men. The CDC said 53.8 percent were white, 12.8 percent were black, 0.9 percent were Asian; the rest had an unknown or other race.

Those who died ranged in age from 1 to 94 years old, with a median age of 65 years, the report said.