Puerto Rico Faces Humanitarian Crisis: The aftermath of Hurricane Fiona leaves devastating damage

By: Hannah Bonaducci

Almost five years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Hurricane Fiona struck on Sept. 18  leaving even more damage. At the time of writing, Reuters reports that out of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million residents, 40% are without water, and about 75% are without power. Currently, the estimated death toll sits at eight. 

Luma Energy, a private company that took over the island’s power control and distribution a year ago, said restoring power to their 1.5 million customers could take several days.  However, over a week into the ordeal, 1.07 million are still without power.  Many areas have started restoring as best as possible under the direction of local government, but Luma has yet to intervene in certain towns. Luma employees and representatives have claimed they have the situation under control and that no other intervention is needed.

This is a crisis for many, especially those with equipment or medical needs that depend on electricity. Direct Relief Puerto Rico has tried to help by providing generators, medical kits, hygiene kits, batteries and solar lights to residents in need. However, the generators bring little hope as a fuel crisis also sweeps through Puerto Rico. A U.S. ship carrying 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel has been unable to dock due to the Jones Act.  The Jones Act, which dates back almost 100 years, states that merchandise delivered between U.S. ports must be delivered by vessels that were primarily built in the U.S. GH Parks, the vessel carrying the diesel, is sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands. 

A waiver is needed and has been pending since the 25th, leading Puerto Rico Governor, Pedro Pierlusi to directly request a waiver. Puerto Rico faced the same problem in 2017 with Hurricane Maria, and a waiver was granted then allowing 10 days’ worth of shipments. Unfortunately, it was too late for the over 3,000 residents that had already died.

As the crisis continues, multiple organizations have started collecting donations for relief efforts. If you are interested in giving, some reputable organizations asking for donations are Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, Global Giving, Hispanic Federation, Taller Salud and PRxPR. 

Sources: AP News, CBS, NBC, NPR Reuters

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