[Air-L] In Puerto Rico, Hysteria is starting to spread
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Mon Sep 25 16:57:54 PDT 2017
“Hysteria is starting to spread”: Puerto Rico is devastated in the wake of
No power, little access to water, dwindling food: the situation in Puerto
Rico right now.
Updated by Brian Resnick on September 25, 2017 5:06 pm
Among the greatest threats is the continuing lack of power throughout much
of the island, after nearly the entire power grid was knocked offline
during the storm (about 80 percent of the transmission infrastructure was
destroyed). The New York Times reports it could be four to six months
before power is restored on the island. That’s half a year with Puerto
Rico’s 3.4 million residents relying on generators, half a year without air
conditioning in the tropical climate, half a year where electric pumps
can’t bring running water into homes, half a year where even the most basic
tasks of modern life are made difficult.
“Being without power is huge,” says Mutter. “Just how quickly they can get
it back is still an unknown thing. But it’s extremely important they get it
going to suppress the chances of illness following the storm.”
Puerto Rico is the most populated island Maria hit. And the crisis there is
particularly intense. For one, it’s exacerbated by lack of communications.
(1,360 out of 1,600 cellphone towers on the island are out.) Many
communities have been isolated from the outside world for days, relying
only on radios for news. The communications shortage means the full extent
of the crisis has not been assessed.
"The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,"
Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez told CBS News. "I
can't deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week
ago. The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families
without homes, of debris everywhere. The island's greenery is gone."
The Washington Post reported from Juncos, Puerto Rico, a municipality in
the Central Eastern region of the island. There, they found a diabetic
woman afraid that the refrigeration that keeps her insulin preserved will
soon run out, people living in homes missing roofs or whole second floors,
and where the villagers asked journalists upon their arrival, “Are you
There are few hospitals with running generators, CNN reports, and fewer
with running water. Reuters reports that hospitals are scrambling to find
diesel fuels to power generators, and that food supplies are running low. A
cardiovascular surgeon the newswire spoke with explained:
…without air conditioning, the walls of the operating room were dripping
with condensation and floors were slippery. ... Most patients had been
discharged or evacuated to other facilities, but some patients remained
because their families could not be reached by phone.
USA Today made it to the town Arecibo on the Northern shore of the island,
where residents hadn’t heard any news from the outside world for four days,
and the only source of fresh water is from a single fire hydrant.
“Hysteria is starting to spread,” Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, mayor of Manati, a
town on the North shore, told the Associated Press. “The hospital is about
to collapse. It’s at capacity. … We need someone to help us immediately.”
But the list of woes is much longer. An untold number of homes are
irreparably damaged. Infrastructure is badly damaged. People aren’t
working. The storm was particularly costly for the agriculture industry:
“In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the
crop value in Puerto Rico,” the New York Times reports.
Even the National Weather Services Doppler weather radar station on the
island has been destroyed. That’s the radar that helps meteorologist see
where thunderstorms and other weather systems are moving in real time. “Not
having radar does make future storms more hazardous,” says Jeff Weber, a
meteorologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Meanwhile, new crises keep forming in the wake of the storm. On Friday, the
National Weather Service issued a dire warning about the Guajataca Dam in
the Northwestern corner of Puerto Rico, threatening downstream areas with
deadly floods. Seventy thousand people — enough to fill a small city — have
been asked to evacuate areas that could be flooded by the nearly 11 billion
gallons of water the dam holds back.
And leaving is not an option, at least for now. “Travelers at the airport
on Sunday were told that passengers who do not already have tickets may not
be able to secure flights out until October 4,” Reuters reports.
Puerto Rico is an island, which complicates recovery efforts. Supplies have
to be flown in or arrive via ship. Most of the sick and elderly haven’t
been able to evacuate.
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