Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria. CTH can confirm there is almost no communication with the majority of those impacted by the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria. Local officials are using satellite phones to gain residents the ability to contact their friends and family in the U.S. mainland. Critical infrastructure has been severely compromised. Cell phone service is sporadic to non-existent.
Adding to and amplifying the problem was a general dependency on government assistance, by a large portion of the population, for basic needs prior to the storm. The comfort of dependency has now worsened the desperation of the people on the island.
(Via Fox News) A humanitarian crisis grew Saturday in Puerto Rico as towns were left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service following Hurricane Maria’s devastating passage across the island.
A group of anxious mayors arrived in the capital to meet with Gov. Ricardo Rossello to present a long list of items they urgently need. The north coastal town of Manati had run out of fuel and fresh water, Mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez said.
“Hysteria is starting to spread. The hospital is about to collapse. It’s at capacity,” he said, crying. “We need someone to help us immediately.”
The death toll from Maria in Puerto Rico was at least 10, including two police officers who drowned in floodwaters in the western town of Aguada. That number was expected to climb as officials from remote towns continued to check in with officials in San Juan.
Authorities in the town of Vega Alta on the north coast said they had been unable to reach an entire neighborhood called Fatima, and were particularly worried about residents of a nursing home.
“I need to get there today,” Mayor Oscar Santiago told The Associated Press. “Not tomorrow, today.”
Rossello said Maria would clearly cost more than the last major storm to wallop the island, Hurricane George in September 1998. “This is without a doubt the biggest catastrophe in modern history for Puerto Rico,” he said.
A dam upstream of the towns of Quebradillas and Isabela in northwest Puerto Rico was cracked but had not burst by Saturday afternoon as the water continued to pour out of rain-swollen Lake Guajataca. Federal officials said Friday that 70,000 people, the number who live in the surrounding area, would have to be evacuated. But Javier Jimenez, mayor of the nearby town of San Sebastian, said he believed the number was far smaller.
Secretary of Public Affairs Ramon Rosario said about 300 families were in harm’s way.
The governor said there is “significant damage” to the dam and authorities believe it could give way at any moment. “We don’t know how long it’s going to hold. The integrity of the structure has been compromised in a significant way,” Rossello said. (read more)
The U.S. military is the tip of the spear in attempting to get aid and supplies to the residents in coordination with FEMA and emergency officials. CTH had numerous conversations today with teams trying to get as much into the island as possible.
The leadership of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Expeditionary Strike Group 2, met with key leaders with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Puerto Rico National Guard to plan and coordinate for Hurricane Maria response efforts in Puerto Rico. The Department of Defense (DoD) is supporting FEMA, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Cpl. Adam D. Edwards)