The words “apocalyptic devastation” and “humanitarian crisis” are being used to describe conditions in Puerto Rico following hits by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which have shut down modern civilization on the island.
“It’s an avalanche of disasters, one disaster after another disaster,” Father Flavio Bravo said of the situation in the U.S. Commonwealth.
Bravo, the Jesuit leader in Puerto Rico, described the scenes on the island as “apocalyptic.”
News reports indicate that Puerto Rico has suffered near-total devastation, and the government response has not been very effective.
Approximately 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cell phone towers have been knocked down, The Guardian reported. The destruction of the phone system made the catastrophe worse, as social media was the only form of communication many people previously had.
Additionally, the entire power grid was knocked out, and no one knows when it will be back. Estimates for restoration of electricity range from four to six months, Vox reported.
“That’s half a year relying on generators, half a year without air conditioning in the tropical climate, half a year where even the most basic tasks of modern life are made difficult,” Vox writer Brian Resnick wrote.
People literally are dying from a lack of electricity. Those most at risks are the very sick and disabled, such as dialysis patients.
“We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out, because … small generators now don’t have any diesel,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told CNN.
Puerto Ricans are living in apartments without walls, and houses filled with water because they have no place to go.
More than 10,000 disaster relief workers and vast amounts of supplies have been rushed to Puerto Rico. Disturbingly, red tape is preventing some aid from reaching the island.
Cargo ships cannot land aid in Puerto Rico if they lack a U.S. flag and crew because of an old federal law called the Jones Act, the Guardian noted. That meant a Canadian freighter could not drop aid off in Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico is teetering on the edge of a humanitarian crisis, and the television cameras are still largely absent,” Susanne Ramirez de Arellano of the Guardian wrote. “And if you’re shocked by that, imagine what else they’re not showing you.”
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