Discover recent news on the relief efforts for Puerto Rico.
'Over the weekend, Yanitza Cruz and her family moved. Again. Twice, in fact, for the third and fourth times since Hurricane Maria swamped their home in a rural village in Puerto Rico last September.
Their new address is, like the last two, a hotel in Queens, this one rented by New York City’s Department of Homeless Services as a family shelter. It is a lifeline the city offered to Puerto Rican evacuees from Hurricane Maria last week, just as shelter assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was about to run out. But it is also another stop in a journey that has seemed endless.
“I got rid of a lot of stuff and put it into storage,” Ms. Cruz, 28, said as she taped up boxes on Saturday morning in a room crammed with shopping bags and luggage at her FEMA-provided hotel near La Guardia Airport, working around her 5-year-old daughter and infant son. “But I still feel like I have too much stuff here to take with me.”' - nytimes.com
'SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An island-wide blackout hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the U.S. territory struggles with an increasingly unstable power grid nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria. Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers as outrage grew across the island about the state of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority.
"This is too much," said Luis Oscar Rivera, a 42-year-old computer technician who just got normal power back at his house less than two months ago. "It's like the first day of Maria all over again."
Several large power outages have hit Puerto Rico in recent months, but Wednesday was the first time since the Category 4 storm struck on Sept. 20 that the U.S. territory has experienced a full island-wide blackout. It snarled traffic across the island, forced dozens of businesses with no generators to temporarily close and interrupted classes and work.
The island's international airport switched to a backup generator. No cancellations or delays were immediately reported.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said on Twitter that a Wednesday night baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins would still go on.' - cbsnews.com
'More than four months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and shuttered its public education system, almost all of the island’s schools are back up and running, even though many still lack electricity. In the coming months, however, as many as a quarter of Puerto Rico’s public schools could close their doors — this time for good.
On Thursday, Education Secretary Julia Keleher released the timeline for a fiscal plan that would result in the closure of about 300 schools. Currently, Puerto Rico’s education department operates roughly 1,100 campuses. By the end of March, she said, the department will release an analysis outlining 800 schools that should remain open.
“I think the closing of schools is sad and difficult for communities, I do,” Keleher told The 74. “I am sensitive to that, I feel badly for that, [but] I also am trying to stay focused on the opportunity we have, to build a new system of schools that is more on par with other high-quality school systems, and that really prepares our kids to be competitive.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló released the fiscal plan in January. Rosselló announced the looming school closures, which would save the government an estimated $300 million by 2022, as part of a larger strategy to help the island recover from Maria. That storm forced all public schools in Puerto Rico to close for months, many permanently. About 350,000 children attended Puerto Rico schools before the storm; more than 27,000 students have since fled to the U.S. mainland and now attend schools in Florida, New York, and Massachusetts.' - the74million.org
Darkness comes quickly in the tropics. As I turn my rental Kia onto Highway 187 that winds through some of the poorer coastal areas of Puerto Rico’s north coast, east of San Juan, I can sigh and look at the last twilight and orange fire fading quickly into a dark western sky. After a day of mold cleanup and painting, I have a warm shower and a cold beer waiting for me back close to San Juan. Not so for the residents here.
Returning to Puerto Rico in early December for the first time since Maria, I did not know what to expect. There is an air of normalcy near the airport and on major roads; fast-food restaurants are mostly open, running on generators. First, I began to notice missing traffic lights, missing road signs, buildings without roofs, buildings boarded and shuttered.
One typical telltale sign of storm damage is the blue tarp, but not here. They never arrived. Virtually no tarps. Every building damaged by the storm gets wet every time it rains, which, in this season, can be several times a day.
Major reconstruction has begun on some buildings in and around San Juan, like the Ritz Carlton, with scaffolding up three sides. These folks have capital, insurance and other resources. But just blocks away, no progress.
When I travel by myself, I talk to strangers. In Puerto Rico, I smile, greet and ask them about their family. It’s seems natural, since Puerto Ricans are all about family. Always the answer is “my family is fine.” Fairly quickly I learn this means something like “no one has died yet.” - gazettenet.com
'WASHINGTON — Connecticut’s Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy on Tuesday toured devastated areas of Puerto Rico that are still reeling four months after Hurricane Maria’s 150-mph winds blew across the island.
“I am furious,’’ Blumenthal said in a conference call from Puerto Rico on the first of a two-day visit. “I am angry we have played politics with Americans who need our support.’’
Murphy said a similar lack of progress “would be unacceptable’’ on the U.S. mainland.
“The reality here needs to change,’’ Murphy said.
The federal relief effort involving Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies has suffered from both a lack of will and resources, the senators said. Although the Corps promised the electrical grid would be up and running by December, 50 percent of the island remains without power, Blumenthal said.
Shortages of materials abound and the number of deaths attributable to Maria has been underreported, the senators said. Residents who lost their roofs have only half the tarps they need to cover their homes and stop the rain, Murphy said.
“The island is still in triage, economically, financially and medically,’’ Blumenthal said. “What the (federal) government has done here is sadly and shamefully inadequate.’’
Congress appropriated $36.5 million in storm relief in October, but only a portion of that went for infrastructure repairs in Puerto Rico. Last month the House passed $81 billion in relief for California wildfires and hurricane recovery. But Democrats including Blumenthal and Murphy blocked it in the Senate, saying it gave Puerto Rico and the similarly hit U.S. Virgin Islands short shrift.
Blumenthal called the House proposal “a disgracefully deficient downpayment,’’ saying he supported a measure from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would direct $194 billion to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.' - ctpost.com
'New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is offering students in Puerto Rico, who have been impacted by the Hurricane Maria, an opportunity to continue their studies providing an academic scholarship, free housing and a basic meal plan for the spring 2018 semester.
NJIT’s articulation agreement with the Ponce Health Science University in Puerto Rico is one example of a longstanding relationship the university has with Puerto Rico’s higher education community.
In order to be eligible for this opportunity, prospective students must apply by Jan. 1, 2018. Once accepted they will be enrolled in NJIT courses and receive an official NJIT transcript upon completion of the semester. All students are required to meet the criteria for admission and once admitted will be eligible for a special one-time academic scholarship.
Up to 15 students will be provided a stipend to live on campus in residence halls and receive a free meal plan for the spring semester. The scholarship may be renewed, subject to academic performance. Accepted students will be responsible for paying for their own health insurance, travel expenses and books.' - news.njit.edu
'NEW YORK (Reuters) - Puerto Rico’s efforts to return power to 50 percent of the island following Hurricane Maria were disrupted on Wednesday when a technical problem shut a 230,000-volt line, according to a statement from Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
The outage is west of San Juan, but disrupted service in an area that includes San Juan and other populous municipalities of Bayamon and Guaynabo.
The line runs from the Cambalache plant in Arecibo, on the northern coast, to the Manati transmission center, Justo Gonzalez Torres, director of generation for PREPA, said in the statement.
The disruption is the second transmission line failure in as many weeks. Puerto Rico has struggled to recover from the devastation wrought by Maria, which knocked out power to all 3.4 million residents when it landed in mid-September.' - reuters.com
By Leyla Santiago and Rachel Clarke, CNN
'Maricao, Puerto Rico (CNN)The three-star general is leaving Puerto Rico, ending his mission of providing relief from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
'The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering to airlift victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland to reach temporary housing -- a complex operation that would be the first of its kind for the agency.
Under FEMA's Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program, displaced residents and families who are still living in shelters on the island can opt to relocate to housing in Florida and New York. The agency is working with the governors in both states to work through logistical issues for families interested in participating.
Mike Byrne, a federal coordinating officer for FEMA, said the program is the first time the agency has attempted what it calls an "air bridge," or a relief operation requiring the transportation of individuals from a disaster area. In most disasters, FEMA pays for displaced residents to stay in hotels under the TSA program. In Puerto Rico, the hotels are filled to capacity, so FEMA is turning to the mainland and working with states to find accommodations.
"A thousand miles adds a whole level of complexity to this," Byrne said.
Byrne says agency teams are traveling to shelters on the island to ask longtime occupants about their housing options going forward, telling them about FEMA's offer. He said the level of interest in the program has so far been low, with only about 30 out of 300 families interviewed on Tuesday expressing interest in participating.' - cbsnews.com
'PONCE, P.R. — Almost two months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, there were more signs of how unsettled the situation remains here and how grievous the toll of the storm was.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it was finalizing extraordinary plans to fly about 3,000 residents of Puerto Rico still living in shelters to New York and Florida.
“Transportation assistance is something that I don’t think we have done previously,” Will Booher, a FEMA spokesman, said. “But this is unique to what’s going on in Puerto Rico.” The agency said the relief effort was being undertaken at the request of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
FEMA regularly finds housing for hurricane victims, often at hotels or motels nearby. But because there is so little available lodging on the island, and no easy way to get people from shelters to safe housing, the agency is arranging charter flights for residents, beginning with those still in shelters.
On Wednesday, Puerto Rico officials, facing increasing questions about the accuracy of the official death toll from the storm, acknowledged for the first time that 472 more people died this September compared with the same month last year. The storm made landfall on Sept. 20. The government’s official death toll is 55.' - nytimes.com
'It’s been more than six weeks since hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, and life in the island is still filled with uncertainty: How many people died? When will power come back? How big will the storm’s impact be on the economy?
In this series, Quartz is examining questions Puerto Ricans are navigating. Here’s the second installment, on Puerto Ricans who left the island after Maria.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Last week, José Luis Robles, a 25-year-old small auto shop owner from central Puerto Rico, boarded a plane headed to Pennsylvania. Today he has ajob at a warehouse in Harrisburg and plans to send for his wife Keishla Pagán and two-year-old daughter Keirelys by the end of the year.
Robles is one of 100,000 Puerto Ricans who have left the island in the aftermath of hurricane Maria, according to official estimates disclosed at a congressional hearing on Tuesday. That’s equivalent to around 1,800 residents a day since the storm hit the island on Sept. 20, and more than the total number of Puerto Ricans who flew out in all of 2015 (link in Spanish,) the latest year for which data is available.' - qz.com
'After Hurricane Harvey flooded her city of Houston in August, Dr. Jennifer McQuade planned to donate socks to those affected. Instead, surprised by the lack of medical care at a nearby shelter, McQuade, an oncologist, became the unofficial leader of a group of physicians and mothers providing emergency aid at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. She triaged patients, solicited donations and recruited more doctors to join.
Their efforts were so successful that McQuade and the other volunteers still had 2,500 pounds of medical supplies when federal authorities took over the Houston shelter after about a week. So, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, leaving hospitals without power and short of supplies and drugs, the challenge was finding a plane to deliver the precious cargo to the island.
“Asking for planes, it’s a crazy ask,” said Dr. Ashley Saucier, a pediatric emergency physician in Baton Rouge, La., who was working with McQuade on the effort in Houston. But that didn’t stop her.' - khn.org
Free Tuition, Housing, Meal Plan, and Health Insurance for Undergraduates Whose Studies in Puerto Rico Were Disrupted by Hurricanes
NYU President Andrew Hamilton today announced that NYU would admit a special cohort of undergraduate students currently enrolled in Puerto Rican colleges whose education was disrupted by the hurricanes that hit the island in September. NYU will cover their tuition for the spring 2018 semester, as well as housing in a student residence hall, a meal plan, and enrollment in NYU’s Student Health Insurance plan.
Applications open today for the NYU Hurricane Maria Assistance Program, and will remain open through December 15, 2017.
“New York City has a deep relationship with Puerto Rico, and so does NYU,” said NYU President Andrew Hamilton. “Through our Faculty Resource
Network, we have worked closely with Puerto Rican universities for many years, and feel a strong sense of connection to the higher education community there. We are pleased to make it possible for at least some of Puerto Rico’s college students to be able to carry on their studies here while their home institutions recover. We look forward to welcoming them to our campus in the spring.” - nyu.edu
'It's 5:30 a.m. and dark in the fifth-floor hotel room, just a few minutes' drive from the Orlando airport. There are still 20 minutes before the entire family needs to be downstairs to enjoy the free breakfast in the hotel lobby, then they'll be driving the 15 minutes north to school — first period starts at the "very early" time of 7:20.
This has been the daily routine for nearly two months since Yerianne Roldán, 17, and her sister Darianne, 16, arrived in Orlando from western Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
They're staying in this hotel room with their mom, Yesenia González, and their stepdad, Eliud Peña. Their hotel room is bright and clean — and pretty standard, albeit for the food stashed under the bedside table, and the piles of suitcases and random belongings stacked in the corner.
"This is a new experience and if you don't have experiences you don't have a life," Peña says. He brought the family to Orlando because he has family in the area. "It's a story for the girls to remember forever; they can tell their children one day."
It's a story the girls would definitely rather tell than live through. Yerianne, the older, more reserved sister, says they're still coming to terms with their new reality.' - npr.org
'SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
Waiting in line at the unemployment office, Pedro Ferrao listed all the things he had lost in the hurricane.
“My kitchen, my carpet, my bed, my couch, my clothes. My personal stuff. My shoes. Everything,” he said.
But the most devastating loss has been his job at a San Juan grocery store, which closed after Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s power grid. Without his regular income, Ferrao has been unable to buy enough food and water for his family or find formula for his infant daughter, who was born ten days after the storm.' - miamiherald.com
This past summer, Jennifer Mojica Santana studied the works of Nuyorican poet Tato Laviera at a course at Brown University, then returned home to San Germán, a city on the southwestern side of Puerto Rico. By Aug.14, she had started her fourth year at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).
At the time, she never would have imagined that only two months later, a hurricane would force her to leave her friends, family and home behind and return to Brown.
Mojica Santana is one of 50 students from the University of Puerto Rico that the Ivy League school is enrolling this fall, in an effort to help students affected by Hurricane Maria to continue their studies.
“As a college student, for me, I knew it would be a challenge to keep up not only with school but with things going on," Mojica Santana told NBC News. “The situation has been so bad, to the point that the necessities like water, electricity and also food have been really difficult to get."
Marisa Quinn, chief of staff for the Office of the Provost at Brown, said that as of last Friday, 30 of the 40 students admitted so far have arrived to campus.
“The president and the provost of the university are supporting this initiative,” Quinn told NBC News. “We aren't charging tuition or fees, but we are providing health insurance and meal plans, and in some cases supporting travel and books, which are being covered by the president and the provost.” - nbcnews.com
'Even before Puerto Rico was devastated in September by Hurricane Maria, the island existed in a strange nether world.
Its residents are U.S. citizens, but they can’t vote for president. They pay federal payroll taxes, but not income taxes. They receive benefits from some government programs, but not others.
The same is true for other U.S. territories, but Puerto Rico is the largest and most populous.
The island has an area of 3,515 square miles, a population of 3.4 million and, in 2016, a per capita gross domestic product of $38,400.
It’s larger than two states, more populous than 21 and outranks six in per capita GDP. The five states most similar to Puerto Rico in terms of population and median household income are Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
It’s unlikely Puerto Rico will become a state any time soon, if ever. The prospect divides its residents nearly in half, and even if they agreed in favor of statehood, it would take an act of Congress. ' - wsj.com
Under the motto “We give from what we have, not from what is left over,” a group of residents led by three teachers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been collecting food, water, and clothes to deliver to areas in the interior of the island, where — six weeks after the storm — it still feels as if Hurricane Maria hit yesterday.
After putting out a simple call on social media, the group received enough money and supplies from fellow Puerto Ricans to fill ten SUVs with supplies. Volunteers met last Sunday in the parking lot of a shopping center in the town of Dorado, forty minutes west of San Juan, to start the hour-plus drive into the mountains.
It was a remarkable effort by people who are themselves still struggling with power outages and shortages of food and water. “Helping is more gratifying when we give what we possess,” Glenda Rodríguez, a physical education teacher and one of the organizers of the event, told the volunteers who turned up to help. “Keep in mind that, in addition to supplies, we are going to deliver love and therapy. These people have been through a lot.” - villagevoice.com
"In the hours following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Joint Base Charleston C-17 Globemaster III transport jets responded, delivering more than 1,700 tons of aid, supplies and medical teams to affected areas. The C-17s can get to austere locations quickly, but the amount of cargo they can carry is limited.
"The 841st Transportation Battalion has been working with [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and other interagency partners over the past couple of weeks to move critical equipment and supplies to aid in recovery efforts in Puerto Rico," said Army Lt. Col. Chad Blacketer, 841st Transportation Battalion commander. "That effort culminated when we finished loading the [USNS Brittin] and it departed."
More Trips Planned
The Military Sealift Command ship is scheduled to travel between here and Puerto Rico several times over the next few months. The first trip is bringing essentials such as food, water and vehicles to get aid to areas where mudslides have created access issues. Later deliveries will provide the equipment to restore utilities and rebuild the infrastructure on the island, officials said." - defense.gov
"The School of Law has launched a new law clinic in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, which has left thousands of Puerto Ricans in critical need of legal assistance.
Through the Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic, a group of specially trained UB law students will learn relevant law in Buffalo and then travel to Puerto Rico in January to offer hands-on legal assistance, providing direct access to justice for those in urgent need.
“Puerto Rico is facing not just a natural disaster, but a legal disaster,” says Kim Diana Connolly, professor and vice dean for advocacy and experiential education, and director of the law school’s Clinical Legal Education Program. “As electricity and other basics come online in the coming weeks and months, the demand for legal assistance will become paramount.
“The immediate needs are vast, and we are still working with local experts to identify the best projects for UB law students to handle,” Connolly says. “We know the pressing needs range from direct legal representation of individuals and families to supporting those working within the Puerto Rican legal system trying to help citizens best navigate this tragedy.”
Participating students will receive more than two weeks of intensive training by law school faculty, alumni and other legal experts, including attorneys in Puerto Rico. They will identify the most urgent legal needs that residents and local government agencies are currently facing. Students will acquire the skills and substantive knowledge required to address legal aspects of disaster response. Connolly will coordinate the program and classes will take place at the law school." - buffalo.edu
By KIM SEVERSON
"SAN JUAN, P.R. — José Andrés was walking along a dark street in a stained T-shirt and a ball cap, trying to decompress after another day of feeding an island that has been largely without electricity since Hurricane Maria hit a month ago.
He’d gone barely half a block before two women ran over to snag a selfie. A man shouted out his name from a bar running on a generator and offered to buy him a rum sour.
The reaction is more subdued in rural mountain communities like Naguabo, where Mr. Andrés and his crew have been delivering supplies so cooks at a small Pentecostal church can make 5,000 servings of arroz con pollo and carne guisada every day. There, people touch his sleeve and whisper, “Gracias.” They surround him and pray.
“He’s much more than a hero,” said Jesus R. Rivera, who was inside a cigar store watching Mr. Andrés pick out one of his daily smokes. “The situation is that still some people don’t even have food. He is all that is keeping them from starving.” - nytimes.com
"Antonio Santini was willing to do anything — as long he got to Puerto Rico. He'd be a perfect asset for the U.S. Army's Hurricane Maria mission: He spoke Spanish and he knew the terrain. The sergeant first class had been all over the world with the military — Germany, Peru, Qatar, Afghanistan — but this mission, to an island devastated by a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, was "deeply personal."
Fifteen hundred miles away, in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, Maria Rivera had survived the hurricane in her two-story house on the hill. Three generations of the family buckled down together as the whole house shook — the roof gave way, windows broke and water gushed in.
Amid the storm's chaos, Rivera was calm. A deeply religious woman, she prayed for her family. For their house. For Puerto Rico. She and her husband stayed up through the night, bailing out water from the house. In the days that followed, while Santini was packing in North Carolina, making last-minute trips to the commissary on base at Fort Bragg, Rivera watched as their supplies dwindled and the water and power stayed off." - npr.org
"Facing withering criticism from members of Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the governor of Puerto Rico moved on Sunday to cancel a $300 million contract awarded to a small Montana company to rebuild part of the island’s battered power grid.
While government officials in Washington and San Juan have argued over how a company from Whitefish, Mont., with connections to the secretary of the interior but only two full-time employees secured an emergency contract that requires the work of thousands of people, the majority of Puerto Rico is still without electricity, nearly six weeks after Hurricane Maria knocked down thousands of poles and lines.
Some stores, medical centers, restaurants and a fortunate few private residences are running on generators, but most of the island’s 3.4 million people are plunged into darkness after sunset.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as Prepa, is generating just 30 percent of its normal output, the Puerto Rican government said. The power grid is in such bad shape that the power authority does not know exactly how many of its customers are without power. The authority has estimated that repairs will cost at least $1 billion." - nytimes.com
"When President Trump told Geraldo Rivera, that as far as Puerto Rico’s more than $70 billion public debt is concerned, “We’re going to have to wipe that out,” he proposed a solution worth considering.
Four weeks after Hurricane Maria, the death toll is climbing, most of our people don’t have electricity, and too many can’t access clean drinking water.
Even before the devastation wrought by the hurricane, the various indebted components of Puerto Rico’s government were in no position to pay anywhere close to the amount they owed. Puerto Rico’s economy has been depressed for more than a decade, and the island has not been able to generate sufficient revenue to pay off all its debt. Now, given the dire storm-damaged state of its economy, Puerto Rico is more hobbled than ever." - bostonglobe.com
"PONCE, Puerto Rico, Oct. 23, 2017 — For some, the idea of spending hours hundreds of feet above the world suspended by only a rope and harness is a terrifying thought.
For the airmen of the 85th Engineering and Installation Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, it’s just another day at the office.
The 85th EIS airmen climbed high into the Puerto Rican air at Cerro de Punta Mountain near Ponce to repair radio communications infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Maria.
“We’ve actually heard a lot of stories since we got here about people who, in an emergency, haven’t been able to call 911, or if they do call 911, a dispatcher has no way of getting help out to them,” said Air Force Capt. Jose Gutierrez del Arroyo, the deputy flight commander and specialized engineer of the 85th EIS. “This is going to alleviate some of those issues throughout the island and hopefully get some help to people that need it the most.”
The mission is a large part of Joint Force Land Component Command’s mission to reestablish communications and emergency services in Puerto Rico. The airmen will travel to several different radio tower sites across the island to repair radio communication systems for emergency personnel and first responders." - defense.gov
"DeKALB — More than a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall, victims in Puerto Rico are still unable to power their homes and access clean water, but members of the campus community have plans to aid the island.
Rosita Lopez, Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations associate professor, arrived in Puerto Rico six days after the hurricane struck to get her father and bring him back to Illinois. Lopez stayed on the island for a little more than two weeks.
Lopez plans to return to Puerto Rico Nov. 14 on her own to give assistance to those in need and help with fixing damaged homes.
“I don’t ever want to forget what I saw or how I felt,” Lopez said. “It was like being in a really bad movie. It was like a bomb hit, and these are the remaining survivors. Trying to get up the roads and moving around was extra hard. It was just horrible.”
Although Lopez went to the island to pick up her father, she stayed to help aid victims and other family members. She used her own rental car to fill up gas containers for individuals who needed to fill their vehicle’s gas tanks." - northernstar.info
Puerto Rico's misery won't end without power. The problem is that it isn't getting any.
Updated by Yochi Dreazen
ADJUNTAS, Puerto Rico — In the final frantic days before Hurricane Maria devastated this small town in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, Rosana Aviles Marin did everything she could to help her elderly parents prepare for what was coming.
She brought in food and water, and used plywood to reinforce the walls and roof of their modest two-story cement house. It didn’t matter. The winds of up to 155 miles per hour that roared across the island buckled the house’s walls and tore holes in the ceiling, letting in water that destroyed furniture, framed photos of Marin and her siblings, and brightly colored ceramic statues of Jesus.
That wasn’t all it destroyed. The storm also downed power lines throughout the area, and Marin and her parents have been entirely without electricity for weeks. Much of their food went bad, they have no cellphone service, and local markets and restaurants remain closed. Her parents use a small diesel generator to power lights and, for a few hours per day, a small refrigerator. The rest of the time, she tells me during a recent trip to the area, “my parents live in darkness.” - vox.com
The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, by the numbers:
More than 80 percent: The portion of the island’s electric grid that is not functioning.
28 percent: The share of Puerto Rican residents who lack running water.
72 percent: The share of residents who have running water and thus are subject to the health department recommendation that people boil or disinfect their water before drinking it.
100 percent: The share who are in one of the two previous categories.
40 percent: The share of residents who lack a cellphone signal.
20, out of 51: The number of sewage-treatment plants not functioning.
5, out of 18: The number of toxic-waste sites that have not been inspected by the Environmental Protection Agency since the hurricane.
Close to half: The portion of hospitals without electricity.
Hurricane Maria has exposed and intensified the island’s ecological crisis and its human consequences. Can it build a sustainable future?
ARECIBO, P.R.—“There’s no way there were just 45 deaths,” said Myrna Conty, an environmental activist whose work takes her regularly across the most remote parts of the island. She scoffed at the radio reports of the official death toll, a common refrain among Puerto Ricans whose personal stories—a cousin who died needing dialysis here, a neighbor who simply hasn’t been heard from there—when multiplied 3.5 million-fold make the official estimate seem impossible.
We’d followed the path that Hurricane Maria’s eye had taken along the highway to the west of San Juan. Three weeks after the storm, the tropical green was just starting to come back, sprouting over the brown wounds of mud and giant trees pulled up from their roots. Here in Arecibo, a small municipality about 40 minutes from San Juan on a good day, high-water marks from the flood stood out on building walls, seven or eight feet high. Obliterated houses marked the deserted hamlets along the road. Smokestacks had been snapped in half and wires lay slack where giant power pylons had fallen. The Río Grande de Arecibo that cuts through the municipality remained an swollen brown expanse, still threatening to drown bridges and homes. Arecibo was a ghost town." - theatlantic.com
The sound of two bells rang through the loud speakers of the U.S. Navy’s floating hospital on Saturday to celebrate the arrival of a newborn baby girl.
The Navy’s USNS Comfort was sailing in the vicinity of San Juan, Puerto Rico -- providing medical assistance throughout a region devastated by Hurricane Maria -- when baby Sara Victoria Llull Rodriguiz made her arrival on board.
“I never thought that our special moment would happen here on this ship,” Sara’s father, Francisco Llull Vera, said in a statement Sunday. “Everyone has been so helpful and gentle while caring for our baby. I hope this opens the door for those who still need help to seek out the Comfort.” - abcnews.go.com
"CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — Raw sewage is pouring into the rivers and reservoirs of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. People without running water bathe and wash their clothes in contaminated streams, and some islanders have been drinking water from condemned wells.
Nearly a month after the hurricane made landfall, Puerto Rico is only beginning to come to grips with a massive environmental emergency that has no clear end in sight.
"I think this will be the most challenging environmental response after a hurricane that our country has ever seen," said Judith Enck, who served as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency region that includes Puerto Rico under President Barack Obama. - sfgate.com
"SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Oct. 16, 2017 — About two dozen Puerto Rico Air National Guard airmen used what was the first or second day off most of them have had since Hurricane Maria hit the island some three weeks ago to team up with other volunteers to deliver food and water to as many as 1,000 people in the island's mountainous interior.
Traveling in their personal vehicles through the sparsely populated regions of the Orocovis municipality in the center of the island, the airmen went door to door offering jugs of water, bags of food and -- perhaps most important of all -- a compassionate ear and a kind word.
"I feel like today I am really doing something -- something that matters so much it is hard to describe," said Air Force Senior Airman Andrea De Jesus of the 156th Airlift Wing's 156th Operations Support Squadron.
De Jesus was partnered with four Puerto Rico Air National Guard airmen, an air guardsman from Michigan and four local volunteers as they traveled steep mountain roads -- most only one lane wide -- to seek out residents. At each home, a similar scene was repeated: volunteers would shout out "Hola" or perhaps tap on the car horn, looking for residents." - defense.gov
"WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Puerto Rico received multiple allegations from residents across the island who say local officials in the territory have withheld needed FEMA supplies.
“People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns,” FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.
Osorio explained, “They’re supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first–people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not.”
He added, “So what we’re doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We’re just corroborating these allegations.” - DailyCaller.com
By Scott Wong
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that Puerto Rico is facing a “humanitarian crisis” and argued that the federal government has a responsibility to provide personnel and aid to the hurricane-ravaged island territory.
But Ryan also appeared to defend controversial remarks by President Trump that federal resources cannot remain in Puerto Rico “forever,” saying the territory needs to get back "on its own two feet." The president did not make similar comments about two other regions that have been slammed by hurricanes, Houston and south Florida.
“Yes, we need to make sure that Puerto Rico can begin to stand on its own two feet,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “They’ve already had tough fiscal problems to begin with. ... We’ve got to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy so that it can be self-sufficient.” - TheHill.com
EPA tells Puerto Ricans not to drink water from hazardous waste sites
By Max Greenwood
"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is warning Puerto Rico residents not to drink from wells at so-called Superfund sites amid reports that some on the island have sought water from the hazardous waste areas.
"There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste 'Superfund' sites in Puerto Rico," the agency said in a statement Wednesday.
"EPA advises against tampering with sealed and locked wells or drinking from these wells, as it may be dangerous to people’s health."
Superfund sites are areas considered highly contaminated by toxins by the EPA and are subject to special federal oversight. There are currently 18 sites in Puerto Rico on the National Priorities List.
The warning about Superfund wells comes as much of the island remains without access to drinking water in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which tore across Puerto Rico last month. As of Thursday morning, about 64 percent of residents had water service restored, according to a recovery website managed by Puerto Rico's government." - TheHill.com