Since Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, the island has been desperately working to rebuild. Almost 20 days after the initial storm, only 12 percent of the island has access to electricity, and many people are without consistent access to basic necessities including water and medication. The availability of medical services is limited, and the death toll has risen as a result of hospital closures.
140 mile per hour winds and massive flooding caused devastation to structures that were not designed to withstand such conditions, leaving thousands without shelter. The widespread loss of electrical power and destruction of telecommunications infrastructure means that communication between families and officials remains difficult. Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was already experiencing strains, and the effects of the hurricane have exacerbated its condition.
A territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is home to nearly 3.4 million American citizens. According to reports from hospitals in Puerto Rico, the number of hurricane related deaths is significantly higher than was initially reported. Omaya Sosa Pascual, a reporter in San Juan stated, “The dead can’t be documented because of all the logistics and legal aspects of declaring someone dead.” As a result, the exact number of fatalities is unclear.
There has been disapproval regarding the President’s response to the hurricane, as relief efforts have been considerably slower than the recent efforts in Texas and Florida. Commenting on the frail infrastructure on the island, President Trump has expressed considerable criticism of government officials in Puerto Rico and consistently mentioned the island’s $70 billion debt.
The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, has been a subject of the President’s criticism after she went on a national media campaign to beg for additional resources and reinforcements. Her response was a plea for the United States government to increase their relief efforts. She stated, “I have no time for distractions. All I have is time for people to move forward. This isn’t about me, this isn’t about anyone. This is about lives that are being lost.”
Economists are now saying that it could take Puerto Rico 12 to 13 years to recover from the mass devastation. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, sent a letter to Congress on Saturday asking for $4.6 billion in aid to help the island get back on its feet.
Media Sources: Vox 10/3/17, CNN 9/26/17, The Guardian 10/1/17, Washington Post 9/30/17; CNBC 10/9/17