by Austin Tyner
On Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm, hit the island of Puerto Rico.
The storm’s winds reached 155 mph, and the island experienced extreme damage to homes, infrastructure, and businesses, along with widespread flooding. The storm knocked out power over almost the entire island, leaving nearly 3.4 million people without electricity, permanently damaging the power grid. Along with the shortage of electricity, many Puerto Ricans cannot get access to food, potable water, or gasoline. The lack of gasoline has been particularly problematic for hospitals, who need it to run generators and keep people on life support. The hospitals that are have not been destroyed are overcrowded, and there are few hospitals that are fully operational. As of October 11th, the official death toll has risen to 45.
During this time of distress, Puerto Rico has been looking to the United States for help. Puerto Rico is a US territory, though there are ongoing debates within the island as to whether they should try to become a state or work toward independence. United States has sent in the National Guard and has also put FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in charge of helping the victims of the hurricane.
As of October 2nd, FEMA had deployed over 1,400 FEMA agents to aid in recovery. Over 9,000 containers of food have been delivered, but relief agencies are having problems distributing it through the country, since a significant portion of truck drivers and delivery people are unable to report to work. Lines of communication are difficult to establish due to widespread power outages and damage to a majority of cell phone towers. Despite these efforts, many people in the US, and Puerto Rico, are questioning whether the federal government and FEMA are extending enough aid, and there has been criticism over their reaction time.
On September 30, President Trump took to Twitter to respond to criticism over his administration’s response to the situation. He tweeted to mayor of Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz, claiming that she has was being “nasty” because of influence from the Democratic Party. He also stated that the Puerto Ricans “want everything done for them.” This has caused strong backlash on social media from celebrities like Lady Gaga and George Takei. Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda retweeted an image of Yulin Cruz giving aid while standing waist deep in floodwater. He went on to praise Yulin Cruz and advocated for rebuilding Puerto Rico, then tweeting that President Trump will go “straight to hell.“
Recovery and rebuilding efforts continue. On Oct. 11, FEMA approved an additional $70 million for aid on the island, bring the total aid thus far awarded to $210 million.
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