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Political Upheaval, Earthquakes & The Pandemic Complicate Puerto Rico’s Recovery From Hurricane Maria, Three Years On

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

Puerto Ricans continue to wrestle with the legacy of Hurricane Maria, three years after the powerful hurricane devastated the island. Political upheaval, earthquakes and the pandemic have complicated the recovery. 

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017, wrecking the island’s infrastructure and leaving a death toll estimated in the thousands. 

Sociology professor Fernando Rivera, director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub at the University of Central Florida, said the recovery has been slow going. 

“We probably, three years out, expected to have a more rapid recovery, but again, the intensity of it, damage to the infrastructure, the political environment and now with the pandemic and other issues that are going on, has made it real difficult.”

Rivera said it’s been an uphill battle also for Puerto Ricans who relocated to Central Florida after the hurricane, many of whom have struggled with housing and a job market made worse by the pandemic. 

“Obviously with COVID-19 hitting areas of employment that were popular with this sector of the population, like tourism and the hospitality sector, they’ve been hit real hard, to the extreme of people that live in motels close to the Disney area,” said Rivera.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he would release nearly $13 billion to help Puerto Rico rebuild it’s electrical grid and repair schools damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Some of the survivors of Hurricane Maria will hold an event at 1pm Sunday in Kissimmee to mark the anniversary of the storm. 

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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »