Sun | Dec 4, 2022

Puerto Ricans await aid, fret about post-hurricane recovery

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2022 | 3:48 PM
A house lays in the mud after it was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 21, 2022. Fiona left hundreds of people stranded across the island after smashing roads and bridges, with authorities still struggling to reach them four days after the storm smacked the US territory, causing historic flooding. (AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo)

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico (AP) — City worker Carmen Medina walked purposefully through the working-class community of Tranquility Village under a brutal sun, with clipboard, survey forms and pen in hand — part of a small army of officials trying to gauge the scope of disaster caused by Hurricane Fiona's strike on Puerto Rico.

She stopped at a white-and-seafoam greenhouse and asked the owner to detail her losses in the storm that had flooded much of the town of Toa Baja.

“Oh, my dear,” responded Margarita Ortiz, a 46-year-old house cleaner standing in a home that was nearly barren because so many flood-damaged belongings had already been discarded.

Pockets of water still bulged from her ceiling Friday in what had been a newly painted house, and Ortiz listed what she could recall of her lost furniture and other goods.

After staying in a shelter and with a friend for days, she hopes to move back into her home soon: “When you lose your bed, you lose your head.”

Fiona hit southwestern Puerto Rico with 85 mph winds on Sept. 18 and the broad storm unleashed flooding across the island, which still had not recovered from 2017′s Hurricane Maria, a stronger cyclone that slashed across the US territory, obliterating the power grid, which had since been patched but not fully rebuilt.

Puerto Rico's government has said it expects to have a preliminary estimate of the damage Fiona caused in roughly two weeks.

As of Sunday, about 45% of Puerto Rico's 1.47 million power customers remained in the dark, and 20% of 1.3 million water customers had no service as workers struggled to reach submerged power substations and fix downed lines.

Gas stations, grocery stores and other businesses temporarily shut down due to lack of fuel for generators. The National Guard first dispatched fuel to hospitals and other critical infrastructure.

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