*Top Photo: A mother holds her baby while surveying the damage left by Hurricane Maria in her neighborhood in Puerto Rico. Credit: Reuters
On Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with wind speeds up to 150 mph. The resulting damage from the storm across the entire island was catastrophic, cutting off power and running water sources to most of the 3.4 million residents. Three weeks later, most people are still without power. Also, limited cell service, destroyed roadways, and no access to fuel has cut off many communities from all outside communications.
Maria was the fifth-strongest storm to ever hit the US and the worst storm to hit Puerto Rico in 80 years.
“The devastation is vast,” said the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, “Our infrastructure and energy distribution systems suffered great damages.”
When an electrical grid fails, many other dependent systems fail as well, causing a multitude of other problems. Reports say it will take up to six months to fix Puerto Rico’s electricity grid, which means for the next few months, Puerto Ricans will have very limited access to the most essential supplies and services.
Photos coming out of Puerto Rico show entire neighborhoods that have been devastated and residents waiting in long lines for very limited, critical supplies such as food, water, temporary shelter items, and fuel. Analysts are predicting the recovery will cost anywhere from $45 billion to $90 billion.
As in every disaster, we work in concert with many partners, so that we don’t duplicate efforts. We are sending three 40-foot shipping containers filled with drinking water, $83,000 in infant formula, and 1,100 disaster health kits to be distributed to families in need. We are also delivering more than 2,000 large, heavy duty tarps to families with damaged or destroyed roofs, so they can be protected from the sun and rain until their roofs can be repaired. A portion of this tarp shipment will be shared with the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide temporary shelter for families whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma.
At the same time, we continue to provide assistance to families suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida.
In Texas, we delivered 1,000 disaster health kits and more than 9,200 ready-to-eat meals for evacuees. We sent five semi tractor-trailers filled with more than 21,000 gallons of bleach to help families clean and sanitize their once flooded homes and prevent the spread of disease, illness and mold.
In Florida, we delivered 1,000 disaster health kits for evacuees living in shelters, and in response to urgent requests, we delivered another five semi tractor-trailers filled with more than 21,000 gallons of bleach to help families clean and sanitize their homes.
We will continue to help families devastated by this unprecedented series of disasters by providing support as needed. Like we have done after Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and other major disasters here in the U.S., we plan to send skilled reconstruction teams to repair and rebuild the homes and lives of those who cannot recover on their own.