By: Bridie Beamish
Two weeks after a two-week-long category four hurricane ravaged portions of the Caribbean and eastern Canada, the two territories still suffer through its destructive effects. Raging from Sept. 14 to Sept. 28, Hurricane Fiona hit Guadeloupe first and brought near-record-breaking rainfall to the island, leaving around 40 percent of the population with no water for a few days.
Puerto Rico was one of the areas hit most severely by the storm. Historic levels of rain created the worst flooding the island has seen since Hurricane Maria in 2017. The rain led to an island-wide blackout that cut off power for nearly 1.5 million residents. Two weeks after the hurricane, 100,000 individuals were still without power. Additionally, the storm left a third of the population without water, and around 3,000 individuals died due to the storm.
Now, the island faces vast economic setbacks. With over 30 inches of rain in some areas, the floods resulted in mudslides that significantly damaged infrastructure, such as roads and bridges in Puerto Rico’s mountains. As a result, the damage left many residents stranded in small communities without access to essentials such as food or medical care.
With Hurricane Maria’s slow and inadequate rebuilding efforts, and an additional 90 billion dollars in damage from Hurricane Fiona, the island is in disastrous economic shape. As over 40 percent of the population is already living in poverty, the Biden Administration acted swiftly and enacted a disaster declaration to ensure Puerto Ricans have access to federal disaster assistance for recovery and rebuilding. The administration will grant 60 billion dollars in additional rebuilding aid through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Additionally, they waived the Jones Act, which requires U.S. Vessels to transport all goods between U.S. ports, to ship diesel fuel to the island to power generators and critical facilities.
With an economy heavily dependent on agriculture, the hurricane’s destruction of crops took an additional toll on the island’s wealth. In another gesture of support, the US Department of Agriculture has begun to aid recovery efforts for farmers, ranchers, and residents affected by Hurricane Fiona. The department has programs to assist with financial aid to restore farmlands or replant crops, as well as reimburse producers for a portion of the value of livestock killed by a natural disaster or loss of feed and grazing acres.
Rachel Cleetus, the policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, declared, “Sometimes we tend to focus on the storms when they’re in the headlines, and you look at it as a unique event, but it’s the compounding effect of these events that is really pernicious for communities.”
(Sources: AmericanProgress, National Hurricane Center, NPR, USDA)