As 2018 Approaches, a Third of Puerto Rico’s Residents Don’t Have Power
And the death toll from the hurricane is possibly far higher than the federal government’s account.
On Sept. 20, Puerto Rico was struck by Hurricane Maria and most of its citizens lost power. More than three months later, roughly one-third of the island still lacks electricity.
It’s by far the longest blackout in US history and it will continue into May of next year, according to Buzzfeed.
The delay stems largely from logistical challenges in the island’s more remote areas, problems with Puerto Rico’s underlying power grid, and complications from the cancelled contract with the energy company Whitefish that sparked controversy earlier in the year, according to Buzzfeed.
Overall, these problems prevent governor Ricardo Rosselló from fulfilling his pledge to get power restored by December and further deepen the ongoing crises throughout the island, Huffington Post reports.
"Rosello set an aggressive timeline, but we know it will take significant time to restore power to the majority of people," Jay Field, a spokesperson with the US Army Corps of Engineers, told Huffington Post.
Since Hurricane Maria hit, people throughout the island have struggled to obtain clean water, food, and medical access. Roads remain obstructed with debris and pollutants from stagnating infrastructure and unsupervised industrial facilities are posing new health problems.
Consequently, the death toll from the hurricane is possibly far higher than the federal government’s account of 62 people.
In fact, the New York Times recently conducted an analysis of the mortality rate in Puerto Rico post-Maria, and found that 1,052 deaths could be attributed to the hurricane.
For example, some deaths not included in the official record happened because people with severe illnesses were unable to get proper medical help because of the lack of electricity, the Times reports. Puerto Rico’s governor has since announced his intention to reopen the investigation into how many deaths were caused by the storm.
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Nine of the island’s 78 municipalities are still without power, according to Buzzfeed, and it will take an additional 50,000 poles for power lines to get them equipped. The pace of construction is slow because of rugged terrain, destroyed infrastructure, and, in a convoluted sense, the lack of electricity, because workers are using machines that require power.
“We understand just how difficult it has been for our citizens to be without power for so long and commit to continuing to do all we can to ensure PREPA has the necessary resources to complete this unprecedented power restoration effort,” Justo González Torres, the executive director of Puerto Rico’s electricity provider, PREPA, told Huffington Post.
As the recovery effort drags on, people throughout the island are still suffering from the effects of a hurricane that happened several months ago.
"Salinas. Please. There's a lot of elderly with medical conditions,” one person without electricity commented on a Facebook post. “We have been completely forgotten."