Here's What You Should Know About Puerto Rico One Month After Hurricane Maria
One million people in Puerto Rico lack water and three million are still without power.
Originally published by TIME
On Sept. 20 Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, leaving at least 48 people dead and decimating the island’s already crumbling power grid.
Texas and Miami were also ravaged by severe weather, in the two hurricanes that preceded Maria, but relief efforts there quickly restored basic infrastructure. One month on, however, much of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico still looks the way it did immediately after the hurricane receded northwest towards the Dominican Republic.
Here is a by-the-numbers account of how things on the island currently stand.
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- More than a third of Puerto Rican households, or about 1 million people, still lack running water according to CNN.
- FEMA says it has distributed 23.6 million liters (6.2 million gallons) of bottled and bulk water in Puerto Rico. That figure includes water for hospitals and dialysis centers.
- These deliveries equate to only 9% of the island’s drinking water requirement, going by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) assessment that each person needs at least 2.5 liters (2/3 of a gallon) per day. Some residents are so desperate for drinking water they have broken into polluted wells at industrial waste sites.
- The shortfall is far greater when you consider the WHO also recommends 15 liters per person per day for basic cooking and hygiene needs. Dirty water ups the risk of diseases like cholera and at least one person has died as a result of being unable to get to dialysis treatment on time, CNN reports.
- Some 86% of grocery stores have re-opened. But they are not necessarily stocked.
- FEMA says 60,000 homes need roofing help. It has delivered 38,000 tarps.
Power and Personnel
- Less than 20% of Puerto Rico’s power grid has been restored and around 3 million people are still without power, says CNN.
- The news broadcaster adds that 75% of antennas are down so even those able to charge phones are unlikely to have cellular service.
- All of the island’s hospitals are now up and running, with most using back-up systems, but only a quarter are being supplied with power from the grid, says Axios.
- According to CNN, FEMA has deployed 1,700 personnel in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also ravaged by Hurricane Maria. That’s 900 less that the 2,600 FEMA personnel reportedly still in Texas and Florida, but the agency told CNN that around 20,000 other federal staff and military have been deployed in response to Maria.
- Thousands of people have donated money or volunteered to help Puerto Rico. Among them, celebrity chef José Andrés says he’s serving 100,000 meals a day on the island.
Publicity and the President
- Five days after Maria made landfall, the first Trump administration officials traveled to Puerto Rico to survey the damage. That evening Trump made his first tweets since the storm hit—mentioning the debt Puerto Rico owes Wall Street. He had spent the preceding days at his golf club in New Jersey.
- It took a further 8 days, almost two weeks after the hurricane hit, for Trump to visit Puerto Rico. The five hours he spent there were marked by him tossing paper towels, jump-shot style, into a crowd of residents.
- Trump later said in a tweet that Puerto Rico’s crushing $72 billion in public debt should be “wiped out.”
- A tweet criticizing the mayor of San Juan ranked the third least popular of all Trump’s tweet since he assumed office, according to a metric that pits comments against likes. The approval rating on his handling of hurricanes also dropped 20 percent in the wake of Maria.
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