Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria and its aftermath:
Hurricane Maria pounded the entire island of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, but the scope of the damage had been speculative and unclear since, in large part because towns across the U.S. territory have been completely off the grid. Though images from the air showed incredible destruction, mayors were unable to reach central government for leadership and help because communication was impossible. No telephones, cellphones, or Internet. No power. No passage through roads that had been washed away or blocked with trees and power lines.
There are over three million people living on the island, and the entire territory is without electricity or running water. There are reportedly no communications with half of the towns in the territory. Conditions in Puerto Rico are being described as “apocalyptic” in some accounts, and even allowing for some hyperbole it is clear that the population is in urgent need of a massive relief effort. By most accounts, it is the largest natural disaster in Puerto Rico’s history. The extent of the damage from the hurricane and subsequent flooding is just starting to be understood:
Authorities flew over the island Saturday, and were stunned by what they saw. No cellphones, water or power. Roads completely washed away and others blocked by debris, isolating residents.
“It was devastating to see all that kind of debris in all areas, in all towns of the island,” Jenniffer González, the island’s non-voting representative in Congress told CNN.
“We never expected to have a lot of debris in so many areas. A lot of roads are closed, older ones are just gone,” she added.
Federal aid is starting to arrive, but the people there are going to need at minimum a sustained relief effort for many months to come. Additional emergency relief funding for Puerto Rico along with funding for east Texas and Florida recovery efforts should take precedence in Congress over any other legislative business. Millions of Americans are in urgent need of assistance, and the government and people across the country should do whatever we can to help them.