Hurricane Irma Hits Puerto Rico

Hurricane Irma hit the island of Barbuda directly and destroyed 95% of the structures there. Puerto Rico was braced for a similar experience, but Irma went north of the Island and Puerto Rico escaped this fate.

That doesn’t mean that Puerto Rico was not affected by Hurricane Irma, a a Category 5 hurricane which is still expected to reach Florida this weekend. Flooding is anticipated, as are landslides. Some roads are impassible.

The most severe consequences over the long term involve the loss of electric power. More than one million residents are without power, and the beleaguered power company says that they may be without electricity for four to six months. This represents nearly 70% of the population.

Fewer than half of the hospitals on the Island are in service, as a result of power outages. The 42% of hospitals currently serving patients are able to do so because they have generators.

17% of residents are without water and sewer service, too. The public water and sewer service has been using severely outdated facilities for decades, making it likely that this situation will not be resolved quickly. The potential health problems are obvious.

Governor Rossello, who has been actively helping with prevention and relief efforts, has spoken with President Donald Trump, Vice President Michael Pence, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and US Department of Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price. All have expressed their support.

The federal government is coping with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and will soon have to respond to Hurricane Irma in Florida. It is legal, and usual, for states to be treated differently from territories. The level of federal support available to Puerto Rico remains to be seen, but this will certainly affect the length of time residents must go without power and water.

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