An Update on Puerto Rico – Weekend Edition (October 22)

By Susan Kuebler

We have now passed the one-month mark since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Yet the recovery standards, by any criteria, remain abysmal.  When asked earlier this week what score he would give the work done by his administration in Puerto Rico, Trump gave himself a “10.”  However, the major of Puerto Rico had the perfect response – It would be a 10 on a scale of 1 to 100.

So let’s see how much progress has been made in more than a month.  Since FEMA has not updated its statistics since October 18th, that would be four days now, we will rely on the data provided by the government of Puerto Rico.

As of yesterday, only 20.22 percent of the people on the island have electricity.  This figure has fluctuated over the last few days as parts of the outdated power grid go offline, then back on.  But this figures means that approximately 80 percent of the island is either relying on generators or completely without power.  Without power, there is no way that the residents can keep food or milk fresh.  Those who rely on insulin that must be refrigerated have no medicine.  And, it could take as long as a year before full power is restored to everyone on the island.

While FEMA notes that 23 percent of the residents of St. Thomas and 17 percent of the people on St. Croix have electricity they are silent on the status of the remaining island in the U.S. Virgin Islands St. Johns.  Perhaps that is because 100 percent of the people on St. Johns have no electrical power whatsoever.  Obviously, someone needs to contact the President of the Virgin Islands.  Oh wait….

Overall, only 27 percent of the population lacks access to fresh drinking water, although in certain areas that figure goes as high as 52 percent.  This has led to a number of reported cases of the potentially deadly disease leptospirosis.  Figures on how many people might have become infected through unsanitary drinking water are not yet available, as diagnoses are dependent upon the Centers for Disease Control.

There is another figure that has not received much prominence.  Only 392 miles of the 5,073 miles of roads in Puerto Rico are passable.  This poses a significant hindrance to anyone trying to reach one of the regional supply centers, hospitals, or any other facilities on the island.  On the other hand, this also makes it far more difficult for rescuers to reach people in need of food and water inland.

But there’s more news that hasn’t received much coverage either.  The British newspaper The Guardian reported as early as October 12th that the state of Florida alone could expect up to 100,000 refugees from Puerto Rico.  While many of these will remain only temporarily, others could become full-time residents in the United States.  It is not a stretch either to expect an influx of Puerto Ricans in cities such as New York City that already have large Puerto Rican populations.  Many of these refugees will be staying with family and friends until they can get back on their feet.

But if they do establish permanent residency in the United States, these people are already United States citizens and will legally be able to vote in local, state, and national elections.  One only needs to look at the number of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina who remained in Texas to recognize this could be a demographic shift of significant proportions.

In the meantime, please continue to support the private relief efforts for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  These private groups are providing the majority of assistance to those in need, unlike our government.

Updated:  The five living former presidents of the United States raised $32 million dollars for Puerto Rico relief efforts on Saturday.  Donald Trump played golf.

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. Julian of Norwich.

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