Puerto Rico suffers in wake of hurricane damage

Author:  More on Caribbean hurricane damage, pages 7 and 8.
The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico remained in a state of devastation nearly two weeks after it was first smashed by Hurricane Irma, then the far more destructive Maria.

shelterBy the end of last month, the United States territory was still largely in the dark. Just five percent of Puerto Rico’s more than three million residents had access to electricity.

Classes for some 350,000 students were not expected to resume before mid-October as up to press time less than half of some 1,113 public schools had been inspected for damage caused by the Category 4 hurricane, which hit the island on Sept. 20. Students were already absent from classes then because Hurricane Irma had hit the island days earlier.


In the midst of its woes, Puerto Rico’s plight has also become a political football. The U.S. federal government has moved to provide relief, in the form of food, water and medical supplies. But residents of the island have claimed the relief has not come quickly enough, as distribution has been slowed.

Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, a major city in Puerto Rico, has been critical of the slow progress of relief distribution. U.S. President Donald Trump responded by blaming poor “leadership ability” in Puerto Rico, adding that the island “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

The president was scheduled to visit the island on Oct. 3.

 Up to press time, just over 40 percent of Puerto Rico had potable water. Federal agencies had delivered food and water to the country’s 79 municipalities. More than half of Puerto Rico’s gas stations were open for business. In addition, over a third of the population had telephone service. The number of flights into Puerto Rico had stepped up and most hospitals were in operation.

Still, close to 9,000 people were still staying in shelters across the island.