After Four Months, Much of Puerto Rico Still Dark and Damaged

After Four Months, Much of Puerto Rico Still Dark and Damaged

Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in late September of last year, and residents are still struggling to regain their footing.

Approximately 450,000 of Puerto Rico’s 1.5 million electricity customers are still without power, and those who do have electricity suffer frequent blackouts.

Locals are doing what they can, some stringing their own power lines, others looking to solar power and other renewable sources for short-term lighting use, and long-term, larger-scale planning.

While work continues slowly on restoring power, the tremendous destruction has resulted in a cascade of further problems, including job losses, foreclosures, a decrease in neighborhood police presence and a resulting increase in violent crimes.

The official death toll as a result of Hurricane Maria was put at 64, but an analysis by academic researchers found the figure could be more than 1,000. In December, Puerto Rico’s governor ordered authorities to review all deaths.

Many residents still struggle to find clean water. Medical care remains scarce as many hospitals limp toward becoming fully operational.

The destruction of schools left thousands of students without computers, books and desks. Many storm survivors who lost everything they owned are having difficulty navigating the process to apply for assistance and file claims with FEMA, humanitarian aid agencies said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said Wednesday the agency was not cutting off aid to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, walking back statements one of their officials made in an incendiary NPR report on Monday.

In an interview with the outlet, a FEMA official said that food and water provisions to the island would “officially shut off” on Wednesday. But following an ensuing public outcry, which included Puerto Rican officials, the agency released a statement on Wednesday saying there was never a decision made to end aid to the island.