- Ronald Avila-Claudio
- BBC News World
Puerto Rico is facing a new natural disaster, still not recovering from Hurricane Maria, which devastated much of the US territory exactly five years ago, killing nearly 3,000 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.
This time it was a hurricane FionaIt began pounding the island on Saturday with gusts of up to 137 km/h, and its effects were still wreaking havoc this Monday, despite the system being in the Dominican Republic.
So far, local media have reported Four people diedDue to the direct or indirect effects of the cyclone, around 2,000 people are in government camps.
Images on social media showed destroyed bridges, residential areas under water, overflowing rivers, sinkholes and large landslides.
Videos of the complex rescue operation led by the army, local security agency personnel and the affected community went viral on the internet.
From Sunday, when More than 1.4 million customers lost powerOnly 100,000 people have had power restored, leaving hospitals and senior care centers running on generators.
According to the website of the local government, 66% of the customers of the public water company have no service.
“You still can’t say it’s a historic event, but you can say it’s a remarkable system,” Emmanuel Rodriguez, a meteorologist at the US National Weather Service in San Juan, told BBC Mundo.
According to the expert, the US territory has had about 60 hours of rain since the start of the weekend. As the rainfall continues, the amount of unaccounted rainfall is currently 63.5 cm.
Although officials are in the early stages of responding to the emergency and exact numbers on the damage are not available, according to Governor Pedro Pierluzzi, the event caused “catastrophic” losses on an island that has struggled with public debt for two decades. There was difficulty in paying.
“In many areas that were not flooded, we have unprecedented water levels. In fact, in many areas it’s higher than what we saw in Hurricane Maria,” the governor said at a news conference.
A dramatic recovery
Rolando OrtizThe mayor of Caye, in the island’s central highlands, confirms that the rains from Hurricane Fiona have caused more damage than Hurricane Maria.
Five years ago, a Category 4 system hit the Caribbean island, dumping about 101.6 centimeters of rain, but only in isolated municipalities. This weekend’s tropical system hit all of Puerto Rico.
“From a wind standpoint, Maria was bad, but from a precipitation standpoint There is no comparison. “This is the biggest thing I have experienced in my 27 years as mayor,” the politician said.
With a complex hilly landscape of around 40,000 inhabitants, the city of Kaye is criss-crossed by many rivers and streams. The mayor confirmed that all neighborhoods of the city were cordoned off this Monday, and his staff worked urgently to clear debris from highways and roads so people could walk.
The city was spectacular A dramatic recoveryWhen a family’s two-storey house was caught in the rising river.
“I spoke to the governor and they gave me rescue resources and they were on their way. But the neighbors were worried. They were taking heroic risks. One of them had a small motorized raft and they tied it to a car with a rope. They were able to go home and rescue them,” he said.
In Vega Alta, a city in the north of Puerto Rico, a woman was caught in a flooded highway as she tried to travel. The municipality’s mayor, María Vega, told BBC Mundo that they had been holding the tree for nine hours since Sunday.
“I stayed there all night. She called 911. We came with the fire department, but when we tried to get to her with the truck, the current moved it. Then we tried with a National Guard truck and even a human chain. We couldn’t because there was more than five feet of water. [1.5 m]”, he explained.
“It was dark and we heard her screaming. As hours went by, we lost hope. When her voice started to fade and she slowly responded, we went crazy. We cried a lot,” he added.
In the end, Firefighters attacked the woman with mortar fire.
Luis Miguel Sanabria, a 32-year-old firefighter, was part of a team that rescued about 20 people in a neighborhood in the southern Puerto Rico city of Salinas, which was hit hard by the rain and has displaced 400 people. .
This rescue started because we were contacted through social media. “Houses were submerged in water. I was six feet [1.83 m] And there was four feet of water [1.2 m]”, the 32-year-old man said, adding that children were among the helpers.
In his ten years as a firefighter, he notes, “I’ve never seen it Nothing like that“.
According to General Jose Reyes, head of the Puerto Rico National Guard, about 1,000 people have been helped in about 25 municipalities.
Memory of Mary
Puerto Rico, devastated by Hurricane Maria, has struggled for five years to rebuild its basic service infrastructure.
During that storm on September 20, 2017, the island was left in a general blackout. A year after the atmospheric event, there were still communities without electricity.
The region has an old power grid that developed in the second half of the 20th century, but the U.S. Congress has failed to modernize it despite billions of dollars authorized after Maria.
In past years, island officials have accused the U.S. federal government of creating bureaucratic obstacles in disbursing funds, while central officials have faced accusations of corruption or noncompliance with existing regulations.
“The infrastructure is back on the ground. The forecast after Maria is that it will take 20 years to fix it. Now we are in a difficult moment…”, Mayor Ortiz laments.
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