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Hurricane Maria Early Recovery Update

Your Legal Options for Hurricane Maria Damage Claims
December 26, 2017

More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the island hasn’t had much of an opportunity for substantial recovery. The storm is blamed for the deaths of at least 16 people, and the island’s 3.4 million residents are sadly facing a great deal of hardship on many fronts.

Utilities

As of September 30, only about 45 percent of people had access to drinking water, according to USA Today. Even fewer people had electric power; about 5 percent of electric customers were receiving power. Also, only 14 percent of cell phone towers were operating.

Transportation

At this point, only half of Puerto Rico’s major roadways have been cleared. Port capacity is running at 75 percent, but a lack of truck drivers and fuel are prohibiting supplies from being delivered from the Port of San Juan. Access to fuel is an issue as well. The latest report has 721 out of 1,100 stations open for automobile owners to obtain the fuel they need to keep their vehicles running.

Infrastructure

Residents are still finding it difficult to obtain the necessities. Many supermarkets remain closed – 295 have reopened, out of the 456 total establishments that normally operate on the island. There are 51 of 69 hospitals open, but just nine of them are connected to the electric grid.

Response

Per reports, all of Puerto Rico’s municipalities have been visited by emergency responders and provided with emergency supplies. A response team of 12,600 individuals is present throughout the island. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10,000 federal workers are aiding the recovery efforts. About 1 million meals have been delivered, as have 2 million liters of water.

An October 1 update by the New York Times revealed fuel and food were surging in. Additional government personnel had arrived, while shipments included a million barrels of gasoline and a half million barrels of diesel. A lack of fuel has hampered the delivery of food supplies, and gasoline is needed to keep emergency generators going.

Cost

The damage from Hurricane Maria could cost Puerto Rico as much as $95 billion, according to a Moody’s Analytics report cited by CNN. Other organizations have estimated the damage to be at $30 billion. Cash is hard to come by for residents since many ATMs are not working. Estimates for property damage are at about $55 billion. The commonwealth filed for municipal bankruptcy in May and has been in a recession for 11 years, so the impact of the hurricane is not helpful.

In San Juan, many residents still do not have power or water. The city’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, asked for additional federal aid and was met with criticism by President Donald Trump. Her pleas are to speed up the process of delivering aid and supplies to the island. In Toa Baja, none of its 80,000 residents have electricity and only a quarter of the people have running water. Food has been rationed, and half the gas stations are still closed. Even as the federal response and the delivery of supplies picks up, the road to recovery will be long in Puerto Rico.


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