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Intersection: Hurricane Maria’s Aftermath In Puerto Rico


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Damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Photo: Puerto Rico National Guard by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos

Gas, food, water, a cell signal. These are in short supply in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

How do supplies get from the ports to where they’re needed? How are Puerto Rican residents communicating on the island and with family in Florida after the hurricane knocked out power and dealt a massive blow to the cell service?

What help does Puerto Rico need from the federal government and what are Central Floridians doing to help get the island up and running again?

Bianca Ocasio, breaking news reporter with the Orlando Sentinel, Andrea Marcial, reporter with Telemundo in Orlando, Maria Padilla, founder of OrlandoLatino.org, and Fernando Rivera, associate professor of Sociology at the University of Central Florida joined Intersection to talk about the recovery effort in Puerto Rico.

Padilla said only one percent of home owners in Puerto Rico have flood insurance, and less than 50 percent have regular home owners insurance.

“Uninsured losses are going to be huge, because they have no money they have nothing to fall back on,” Padilla said.

Rivera said he thinks the federal government was not prepared to handle the magnitude of the storm.

“Historically, Puerto Rico has been neglected in the past. I would argue that this is just another case that magnified that negligence,” Rivera said.

“I think at this point on we should contact our elected officials in congress to make it a priority to help Puerto Rico,” he said.

Padilla said President Trump lifted The Jones Act, which regulates shipping, for 10 days. The Jones Act requires cargo shipped between two US ports to be carried on US flagged ships. The act was also waived for ports in Florida and Texas in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“It limits the flagged ships that Puerto Rico can use, and by doing so it increases cost of supplies,” Padilla said.

“That’s not fair or I think attainable on an island that has such a high poverty rate and in the middle of a disaster right now.”

Marcial said a lot of elderly people in Puerto Rico do not want to evacuate the island, even if it’s not safe.

“That’s their home,” she said.

“They cannot believe that that’s the Puerto Rico where they spent all the years of their life.”

Axel Massol called into Intersection and is part of a community center in Puerto Rico called Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.

The community center is powered by solar panels and also has a radio station that is still able to broadcast and reach out the citizens.

“The Mayor has been using the radio station to organize the clean-up of the town, and let the population know what is going on.”

Massol said if a person in or from Adjuntas wants to send a message to a family member they can email a voice message to Casa Pueblo and it will then be given to them.

 


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