Category 3 Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico just five years after the island was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane has left nearly the entire island flooded and without power and continues to impact other countries such as the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.
What Has Happened Since Hurricane Maria?
Five years ago, Category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Citizens were killed, houses were destroyed, and the entire island was out of power for months. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was responsible for restoring power on the island, but it was hardly reliable for many citizens, as government incompetence and poor planning sabotaged the effort to fix the electricity.
Since Hurricane Maria, PREPA has been superseded by LUMA Energy, a private electric company, in hopes that the power will be properly restored. Sadly, this has not been the case. The island’s new power company failed to deliver electricity to the population’s three million people after Hurricane Fiona hit.
This is not the first time that LUMA has been problematic; issues regarding the power have existed since the company took over. In November of last year, the company’s CEO Wayne Stensby was arrested after “failing to comply with a court order to provide documents to lawmakers.” Additionally, many blackouts and electricity bill increases have caused the people of Puerto Rico to protest against LUMA.
Puerto Rican musician Bad Bunny produced a music video for his song “El Apagón” [The Blackout] that demonstrates the anger behind these protests and the difficult times Puerto Ricans have faced due to the power outages. The video was made before Hurricane Fiona struck the island, but it discusses many issues currently impacting the island’s citizens.
The Aftermath of Hurricane Fiona
Along with power outages, intense flooding, property damage, and crop destruction, many lives have been taken due to Hurricane Fiona. AP News reported that while the National Guard saved hundreds of lives, there were still deaths associated with the blackouts and extreme weather. One man was burned to death after attempting to fix his generator, while another was swept away by a flooded river.
More than 30 inches of rainfall have contributed to the island’s intense floodwaters, causing serious property damage. In Utuado, Puerto Rico, a bridge was washed away due to severe flooding, as seen in a video that has gained attention.
The majority of the island is still without electricity, with more than half of the population experiencing this lack of power due to LUMA’s failure to provide work crews to fix the outages in certain towns. Power has been restored for over 400,000 residents, reported The Guardian, but LUMA claims that complete restoration may take several days.
Crops have also been destroyed by the hurricane, including plantain crops –a favorite and key staple in any Puerto Ricans diet. The heavy downpour and severe flooding have contributed to this crop destruction. Because of this damage, the island’s agricultural system will lose millions of dollars, according to Ramón González Beiró, the secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Agriculture.
Want to Help? Here’s How!
If you are able to lend a helping hand, there are many ways you can support Puerto Ricans during this difficult time. One way to help is to donate to non-profit organizations such as Taller Salud, a feminist group dedicated to promoting sustainable development instead of government-run sources or corporations.
Locally, restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area are accepting donations from customers who order specific items on their menus. For example, Qui Qui DC, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Logan Circle, will direct a portion of its proceeds towards Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, a mutual aid disaster relief organization.
There are also many organizations collecting supplies for the Puerto Rican community, such as the previously mentioned Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, which is requesting donations of water filters, solar lamps, first aid kits, and other essentials. There are other ways to help besides donations, with the most effective option being to spread awareness on social media. The more people who know about what is happening, the more help the island can get.