Issue Update: Hurricane Maria
No clean water, no electricity and no path to recovery in sight. Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria’s devastation swept through the United States territory of Puerto Rico, many Americans still struggle to survive. However, thanks to the generosity of the Assumption community, those impacted by the hurricane are not forgotten.
Desperate for water – many are without working faucets or cannot afford expensive bottled water – Puerto Ricans are turning to unsafe sources. In addition to the scarce water supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the government is providing them with water from a Superfund site, a mix of collected, off-location aqueduct water and lightly contaminated groundwater.
The Rhodium Group (TRG), who, according to their website, “combines policy experience, quantitative economic tools and on-the-ground research to analyze disruptive global trends,” reported on October 26 that the lack of electricity available in Puerto Rico as a result of the devastation of “a storm without precedent” has caused “a blackout without rival.” More than 75 percent of the small island territory is without electricity. TRG’s report states that more than 1.2 million customer-hours of electricity have been lost, a number that continues to raise the longer the country goes without repairs to their power grid.
There hasn’t been such a disastrous power-outage in the territory since the 1998 Hurricane Georges. Ricardo Roselló, Puerto Rico’s governor, has high hopes that power will be returned to 95 percent of the island by mid-December, however, Ray Alexander, the director of contingency operations for the US Army Corps of Engineers estimated that full restoration of power may not occur until early in 2018.
A week after the hurricane first hit, FiveThirtyEight reported that “compared to the other natural disasters of the past few weeks, Hurricane Maria has been relatively ignored. Data from Media Cloud, a database that collects news published on the Internet every day, shows that the devastation in Puerto Rico is getting comparatively little attention.” President Donald Trump last tweeted about the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico on October 12 stating, “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
While the media has turned its attention elsewhere, the impact of the devastation continues to impact residents of Puerto Rico, even those on the Assumption College campus.
“One thing is to see everything on the news, but hearing my parents and other family members tell me how bad the hurricane left everything and seeing pictures of places I had known my whole life completely destroyed was heartbreaking,” Claudia Gonzalez ’19, an accounting major from Humacao, Puerto Rico. “I knew that despite the distance I needed to find a way to help out.” Gonzalez organized the drop-off and collection of items at the ALANA network’s annual Latino Festival, where individuals could donate to help those in need while experiencing a little bit of the culture. “The support from the community has been amazing so I am incredibly thankful,” Gonzalez said. In addition to the money collected, over 30 individuals donated water, canned goods, diapers, first aid kits and flashlights.
The Student Government Association, Office of Student Activities and Department of Athletics all made efforts to collect money at their various events on campus. Each of these endeavors was combined with those of the school’s Campus Ministry to form one large donation. Thanks to the generous efforts of the community, more than $2000 was collected and donated to Catholic Relief Services. “In addition, Campus Ministry helped to line up donations from alumni and friends of the College to support a student whose family business was destroyed by one of the recent hurricanes,” said Deacon Paul Covino, the Director of Campus Ministry. “We also included prayers for the victims of the hurricanes and the earthquake at Sunday Masses on several weekends this semester.”
Maire Guinee, a senior, studies English and Spanish. She is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.