Weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, conditions on the island remain precarious for its 3.4 million residents.
Water, food, and gasoline remain in high demand. FEMA reports that only 56% of residents have access to potable water in their homes, causing many to rely on bottled water and unsafe collection methods.
This was yesterday in Manatí, Puerto Rico - long lines as people fetched water from a pvc pipe that was tapped into a mountain stream pic.twitter.com/wzFqSIZskh— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 9, 2017
Although 77% of grocery stores are reportedly open, only about 400 out of 5,000 miles of road have been reopened after the storm, making access to food difficult. Many organizations are engaged in large-scale efforts to distribute meals across the island.
Food packages FEMA is distributing in Puerto Rico. pic.twitter.com/qlqt0YVDRV— 📚 Book Witch 🎃👻 (@thebilinguist) October 9, 2017
A damaged electrical grid has left 88.3% of customers without power. Though most hospitals are open, many are using unreliable generators that could leave medical professionals without electricity in the blink of an eye.
Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 4 patients now being transferred out. Have requested support from FEMA. NOTHING! @DavidBegnaud— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) October 8, 2017
Supplies, medical services, and other relief materials are being distributed from ten staging areas around the island established by Governor Ricardo Rossello.
While the short-term challenges faced by Puerto Rico pose enormous logistical problems, the long-term project of rebuilding the island’s infrastructure looms large over the heads of many officials.
Several private companies have stepped up to aid these efforts including Alphabet, which recently received FCC approval to launch a number of telecommunications balloons around the island in order to revive cell service for residents.
Additionally, a speculative tweet by a random twitter user sparked a potential partnership between tech giant Elon Musk and Puerto Rico to help rebuild the island’s power grid using solar technology.
The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017
Signs indicate that some sort of plan had been hatched, and the future of Puerto Rico’s energy could be green.
Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) October 7, 2017
Rebuilding Puerto Rico will require innovation and cooperation on a large scale.
For those interested in helping with relief efforts, click here to check out Global Citizen’s guide to aid organizations.
You can also call on world leaders to help the millions of people affected by climate change here.