The Government of Puerto Rico asked the United States on Tuesday to declare the damage caused by Hurricane Fiona on the island a “major disaster,” where there is innumerable damage to homes and infrastructure and a large part of the population continues without electricity or water.
Just five years after the devastating Hurricane María passed through the island, which has still not recovered from the ravages suffered on September 20, 2017, the situation is once again dramatic for many Puerto Ricans.
“I thought I was going to lose my house,” José Morales, a resident of the town of Naranjito, in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, told Efe, whose house was seriously damaged by a landslide on the adjoining hillside.RELATED
Morales also feared that a house further up the slope would fall on top of his. “We had never seen heavy rain like this, it was terrible,” he recalled with visible anguish.
To alleviate this situation soon, Governor Pedro Pierluisi reported that he will submit “a request for a major disaster declaration” to US President Joe Biden, who has promised to give priority to the matter and who already approved a federal emergency declaration on Sunday.
Activate financial aid
Pierluisi explained at a press conference that this request gives rise to the activation of financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) of public assistance to offer emergency services and jobs to the victims.
FEMA will also send hundreds of additional troops to Puerto Rico to respond to the emergency and its administrator, Deanne Criswell, will arrive on the island today to assess and determine the necessary resources to support its recovery.
“I will do what is necessary so that we recover as quickly as possible,” assured the governor, who announced that the estimated calculation of the damage could be delayed a week.
The fatalities caused by the hurricane have not been determined either, although there are eight under evaluation between direct, probably just a man dragged by a river, and indirect, due to lack of medical care or due to the explosion of an electrical generator.
Among the visible damage left by the category 1 hurricane, which made landfall in the southwest of the island last Sunday, there are impassable roads, flooded areas, destroyed homes and downed power poles.
On one of the highways that connects with the municipality of Naranjito, several workers were working on this day to remove the last trees and other debris to completely open the accesses to the town.
“Hurricane Fiona has affected the municipality of Naranjito in multiple ways, such as landslides on state and municipal roads, which are the main access roads,” interim mayor Rafael Rodríguez explained to Efe.
The mayor also indicated that the La Plata and Guadiana rivers overflowed in the urban area causing damage and flooding in the town, where several houses were buried under mud and there is still no electricity and water service.
80% of Puerto Rico is still in the dark this Tuesday, according to data from the company LUMA Energy, in charge of the transmission and distribution of electricity, which has so far restored service to 300,000 customers, out of a total of more than 1.4 millions.
Restore electricity and water, a priority
Abner Gómez, director of public security for LUMA Energy, said at a press conference that this number could increase in the coming hours when the company’s helicopters complete an inspection of the transmission and distribution lines of the Costa Sur plant.
Pierluisi also assured that between this Tuesday and Wednesday “a large part of the population will have electricity,” except for the southern area and the central mountainous area, such as Naranjito, where, he added, it will take “a little longer.”
For its part, the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (AAA) estimated 55% of subscribers who do not have water supply, a total of 693,963, which represents a slight improvement compared to the day before.
The executive director of the AAA, Doriel Pagán, explained that this low number is due to the fact that more than 50% of the dams were impacted by the heavy rains and that many filter plants are out of operation due to obstruction or turbidity in the raw water. .
Despite the precariousness of the situation, the idea is to achieve a gradual return to normality and officials are called to return to their jobs tomorrow.
For the restart of the school year there is still no date, since the Department of Education is inspecting the schools and there are still 1,223 people in 70 shelters, most of them established in educational centers.
“This will be a gradual process. If the school has electricity and water service and is already in good condition, it will open in the next few days,” Pierluisi said.
Flights at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport did resume 100% on this day, when the aerodrome expects to serve approximately 25,000 passengers, while all seaports are open to trade.
It will take longer for citizens like the neighbor of Naranjito Morales to return to normality, who has ahead of him the arduous task of rebuilding part of his home and removing the branches of the trees and the mud that surround it.
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