Though the Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on early Wednesday morning, the US territory is only beginning to realize the extent of the damage. As of Sunday afternoon, the Associated Press has reported at least 10 deaths in Puerto Rico, but CNN reports that officials are describing the present quality of life there as “apocalyptic.”
On top of decimated infrastructure, loss of 95 percent of cell service, and all power, officials are preparing now, on Sunday afternoon, for the almost certain imminent collapse of a dam, with 70,000 people urged to evacuate from the flood path.
“Hysteria is starting to spread. The hospital is about to collapse. It’s at capacity,” Mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez of Manati told the Associated Press on Saturday, crying. “We need someone to help us immediately.”
On Sunday, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting US Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez said that the hurricane “has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,” according to the New York Times.
On Saturday evening, ABC News reported that federal aid is coming in via the main port in the capital, bringing in “1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food.” More shipments are expected. Additionally, 4,000 members of the US reserves have reportedly been deployed to help, although housing them will be another issue.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who visited on Friday with help to restore power, said that he expects three to four months of outages “at the most,” though, according to the New York Times, some islanders are preparing to go without power for up to a year. Those without generators will have to live without refrigerators, electric stoves, and some even without water.
The Associated Press does report that local officials have “praised” the Trump administration’s response but ask for the emergency loosening of US federal rules over the unincorporated territory, such as the Jones Act which requires Puerto Ricans to buy goods from American-made ships with American crews.
Many have been quick to point out on Twitter than instead of focusing on dismantling healthcare and the #TakeTheKnee story, the White House needs to focus its efforts elsewhere.