Puerto Rico: They call the wind Maria

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Puerto Rico: They call the wind Maria

Maria blows the stars around
Sets the clouds a-​flyin’
Maria makes
The moun­tains sound like folks was out there dyin’
Maria (Maria)
Maria (Maria)
They call
The wind
Maria

The scenes from Puerto Rico are hor­rific: Ruin, destruc­tion, flood­ing, and no elec­tric­ity, cell sig­nals or clean water for three and a half mil­lion Americans.

More peo­ple live in Puerto Rico than in 20 states.

Con­sider also that many from the Lesser Antilles who were left home­less were trans­ferred to Puerto Rico for shelter.

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Adding to the anguish: not being able to hear from friends and rel­a­tives. CBS Miami has an arti­cle on How Fam­ily, Friends Can Check On Peo­ple In Puerto Rico.

The com­plete black­out com­bined with the flood­ing is a clear immi­nent threat to pub­lic health, not only to safety.

Kevin Lui explains How could a storm knock out power across the whole island?

Puerto Rico’s power grid was already in bad shape even before the 2017 hur­ri­cane sea­son. PREPA’s power plants are 44 years old on aver­age, reports Reuters — in con­trast with the industry-​wide aver­age of 18 years.

The com­pany, which filed for bank­ruptcy in July, called its own sys­tem “degraded and unsafe,” say­ing in a fis­cal plan released this April that “years of under-​investment have led to severe degra­da­tion of infra­struc­ture,” accord­ing to Reuters.

Accord­ing to Vox, PREPA also faces a man­power short­age that, even before this hur­ri­cane sea­son, was already imped­ing its day-​to-​day main­te­nance.

Puerto Rican offi­cials think that the power dis­tri­b­u­tion infra­struc­ture might be more badly dam­aged than power sta­tions, the gov­er­nor told CNN, adding that power could be more quickly restored if trans­mis­sion lines turn out to be in bet­ter shape than thought.

Com­pound­ing the prob­lem is Puerto Rico’s eco­nomic mess. I have posted about it for years; back to Lui’s article,

The gen­eral eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion is also grim. Puerto Rico’s finances have been in dire straits for years. The island has yet to emerge from a decade-​long reces­sion, and unem­ploy­ment stands at 11%. Its gov­ern­ment entered a process sim­i­lar to bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in May in a bid to restruc­ture its debt load, cur­rently in excess of $70 billion.

At the WSJ,

Maria and Irma hit at a time of finan­cial strain for Puerto Rico. The island’s gov­ern­ment and its state-​owned public-​power monop­oly are under bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion after years of over­bor­row­ing and a decade of eco­nomic reces­sion. The U.S. Con­gress installed an over­sight board last year to rene­go­ti­ate roughly $73 bil­lion in debt and to coax busi­ness inter­ests back to the island.

More exas­per­at­ing is the cell phone sit­u­a­tion, where AT&T has exclu­sive rights, and com­pa­nies such as First­Net are not allowed to pro­vide wire­less ser­vices to first respon­ders. AT&T is com­pletely down.

Puerto Rico was on a down­ward spi­ral for years, well before Irma and Maria struck. One can only hope that this dis­as­ter becomes an oppor­tu­nity to rebuild the entire island and cut down on decades’ worth of bloated, use­less over­spend­ing and waste.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin Amer­ica at Fausta’s blog

Maria blows the stars around
Sets the clouds a-flyin’
Maria makes
The mountains sound like folks was out there dyin’
Maria (Maria)
Maria (Maria)
They call
The wind
Maria

The scenes from Puerto Rico are horrific: Ruin, destruction, flooding, and no electricity, cell signals or clean water for three and a half million Americans.

More people live in Puerto Rico than in 20 states.

Consider also that many from the Lesser Antilles who were left homeless were transferred to Puerto Rico for shelter.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Adding to the anguish: not being able to hear from friends and relatives. CBS Miami has an article on How Family, Friends Can Check On People In Puerto Rico.

The complete blackout combined with the flooding is a clear  imminent threat to public health, not only to safety.

Kevin Lui explains How could a storm knock out power across the whole island?

Puerto Rico’s power grid was already in bad shape even before the 2017 hurricane season. PREPA’s power plants are 44 years old on average, reports Reuters — in contrast with the industry-wide average of 18 years.

The company, which filed for bankruptcy in July, called its own system “degraded and unsafe,” saying in a fiscal plan released this April that “years of under-investment have led to severe degradation of infrastructure,” according to Reuters.

According to Vox, PREPA also faces a manpower shortage that, even before this hurricane season, was already impeding its day-to-day maintenance.
. . .
Puerto Rican officials think that the power distribution infrastructure might be more badly damaged than power stations, the governor told CNN, adding that power could be more quickly restored if transmission lines turn out to be in better shape than thought.

Compounding the problem is Puerto Rico’s economic mess. I have posted about it for years; back to Lui’s article,

The general economic situation is also grim. Puerto Rico’s finances have been in dire straits for years. The island has yet to emerge from a decade-long recession, and unemployment stands at 11%. Its government entered a process similar to bankruptcy protection in May in a bid to restructure its debt load, currently in excess of $70 billion.

At the WSJ,

Maria and Irma hit at a time of financial strain for Puerto Rico. The island’s government and its state-owned public-power monopoly are under bankruptcy protection after years of overborrowing and a decade of economic recession. The U.S. Congress installed an oversight board last year to renegotiate roughly $73 billion in debt and to coax business interests back to the island.

More exasperating is the cell phone situation, where AT&T has exclusive rights, and companies such as FirstNet are not allowed to provide wireless services to first responders. AT&T is completely down.

Puerto Rico was on a downward spiral for years, well before Irma and Maria struck. One can only hope that this disaster becomes an opportunity to rebuild the entire island and cut down on decades’ worth of bloated, useless overspending and waste.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog