by Sami Linden
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria hit the US Territory, Puerto Rico. It initially struck the area as an extremely strong Category Four hurricane, with winds up to 155 miles per hour. The storm took the lives of sixteen people total. Now the territory is struggling with recovery, as the hurricane caused immense amounts of damage and wiped out all power. First responders had to wait until the storm lost strength before starting to rescue victims.
One week after the storm, the island experienced isolation due to the lack of power. Some businesses and residents had generators to supplement the power loss, but they soon ran out of fuel to keep them going. Flooding also caused many residents of the area to evacuate to nearby shelters, and water levels reached four to five feet high. Roads closed, buildings collapsed, and debris piled high on the streets.
The hurricane critically damaged part of the Guajataca Dam, which began to release large amounts of water. As a result, flash flooding endangered even more residents.
As of Sunday, Oct. 1, Puerto Rico began receiving supplies and personnel from the federal government. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel have already been sent to the area to help power the essential generators. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the process of providing victims of the hurricane with food and other essential items. They delivered a total of one million liters of water and one million meals in the past couple of weeks. In addition, 11 percent of Puerto Rico’s cellphone towers are working, and 36 percent of residents have cellphone service. On the other hand, only 5 percent of the island has power.
To provide further aid for Puerto Rico residents, the Royal Caribbean cruise company cancelled a trip marked to leave Sept. 30, and instead sent it to Puerto Rico to help victims evacuate the island. The ship holds a total of 3,800 and stopped at multiple cities within the area. Victims will be taken to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for relief.
Despite Puerto Rico’s disastrous state, many organizations and volunteers are working to help the island recover as soon as possible.
(Sources: Washington Post, CNN, NPR, NYTimes)