In the weeks following Hurricane Maria, the US has been struggling to offer aid to the people of Puerto Rico. It hasn’t been easy, as there have been a few obstacles in the way, including everything from damaged infrastructure to laws most people didn’t even know about until now. Take a look at what’s being going on during the process of getting Puerto Ricans the help they need after Hurricane Maria.
What Does Puerto Rico Need?
Hurricane Maria knocked out the electricity in Puerto Rico. While it was expected that at least some parts of the island would be without electricity for some time following the hurricane, no one expected the entire island to be without power. And it likely won’t be back on for at least a month. Water is intermittent, with some areas having access to it on and off, and others not at all.
Cell service is still out in most areas, though there are some cell towers that have service. That means people have to make their way there and crowd around the towers to place any calls. And of course, most businesses are still closed, making it hard for residents to buy food and other necessities. On the off chance they can find a business that’s open and has what they need, the shortages of gas and cash make it hard to drive there and buy anything. So it’s no wonder most of the over 3.4 million residents of the island are trying to leave.
How Are People Evacuating?
As you can imagine, the first thing most Puerto Ricans tried to do was find a way to get off the island after the hurricane. The thought of being without power, water, cell phone service, and now even food makes the decision to leave—at least temporarily—an easy one. But it’s no simple task.
In the days following Hurricane Maria, people have been doing whatever it takes to make their way to one of the island’s airports. For some, it’s a commercial flight in a large plane, and for others, it’s a flight in a small chartered plane. And still others are leaving by cruise ship, as Royal Caribbean just carried 3,800 people off the island free of charge. With so many people trying to leave at one time, and the only power coming from generators, it’s no surprise there has been some delay in transportation.
Puerto Rico Is Getting Supplies
Of course, not everyone can leave the island right now, and some don’t even want to. Fortunately, there is help for those residents, though it’s taken a surprisingly long time for it to arrive in some cases. That’s partly because roads have been damaged, so the supplies that are being dropped by humanitarian flights—such as food, water, cots, blankets, and generators—can’t be taken to all parts of the island. And even when you can find a route with roads in good condition, the fuel shortage makes it hard to drive there.
Then there are some rules to follow, such as the Jones Act, which requires all items transported between US ports to be brought on ships that were built and operated by Americans. This delayed aid to Puerto Rico for a few days, though President Trump did eventually waive the rule, allowing goods to be shipped to the island.
The good news is that it seems Puerto Rico is in the process of getting the help it needs. Several government groups, charities, and individuals from the US have pitched in to collect and send supplies to Puerto Rico, mostly through military, cargo, and charter planes. However, it may be a while before the island is fully restored, as only 50 percent of homeowners there have insurance that covers wind damage, which shows the importance of having the right policy in place in case of a natural disaster like Hurricane Maria.