The unusually active 2017 Atlantic hurricane season continues to rage into fall as Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Maria’s devastation.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello praised President Trump for his rapid response to Hurricane Maria, adding that the American island is still struggling to recover from “the biggest catastrophe in modern history for Puerto Rico,” according to Politico.
Gov. Rossello and other officials lauded President Trump and the Federal government for having a comprehensive relief plan in place before the storm hit. The American island of Puerto Rico has long been neglected by the Federal government. The territory, which is home to 3.4 million Americans, does not send Representatives or Senators to Congress and has no Electoral College votes.
Resident Commission Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting congressional representative, explained that President Trump’s response is a welcome change from previous administrations. “This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination,” she added.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. The devastation was immediate. Authorities have confirmed 10 deaths, but the number is expected to rise as mayors report from remote towns and communities. Many major stretches of the island remain inaccessible to first responders.
Mayors continue to arrive in the capital of San Juan to meet with Gov. Rossello, and they bring a long list of desperately needed supplies.
Mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, from the coastal town of Manati, told the governor that his community is completely out of fuel and fresh water. “Hysteria is starting to spread. The hospital is about to collapse. It’s at capacity,” he said, with tears streaming down his face. “We need someone to help us immediately.”
Authorities from the community of Vega Alta told the governor that the entire neighborhood of Fatima could not be reached. The authorities were desperate to enter the neighborhood and evacuate residents from a local nursing home. “I need to get there today,” Mayor Oscar Santiago said to reporters. “Not tomorrow, today.”
Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico’s already outdated infrastructure. 1360 out of the island’s 1600 phone towers have been downed by the storm, and 85 percent of the above ground internet, cabal, and phone lines have been knocked out. Major swaths of the island are completely in the dark, as the island cannot afford to repair their already crumbling infrastructure.
Puerto Rico sustained massive damage, as did Houston and Florida. Will the US be able to help Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico’s main port opened Saturday allowing 11 ships stocked full of federal aid to dock. The ships delivered 23,000 cots, 1.6 million gallons of water, food, and generators. Many more ships are scheduled to arrive over the next few days. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials arrived with the ships and brought satellite phones to all of the island’s towns and cities. Many municipalities are still without power, fresh water, or lines to the outside world.
The Federal government freed up $1 billion in local funds to provide relief for Hurricane Maria, but Gov. Rossello says the island still needs more. “We’re going to request waivers and other mechanisms so Puerto Rico can respond to this crisis,” the governor said. “Puerto Rico will practically collect no taxes in the next month.”
Puerto Rico is a shadow of its former self due to the storms and the humanitarian crisis in the aftermath. Hopefully, with the aid and relief efforts heralded by the Federal government, the nation can recover and persevere as Americans do.