by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:
If you ever wondered what it would look like if the grid collapsed here on the mainland, the island of Puerto Rico is a tragic, real-life case study. These stories show us what life is like for more than a million people who STILL don’t have power and running water nearly 3 months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated their communities.
According to a website showing the status of utilities on the island, four months after two hurricanes wrought havoc, 32% of Puerto Ricans are still without power and nearly 10% are still without running water. However, even those who have running water must boil it.
But statistics don’t tell the real story.
At first, it was a war zone.
In the first days after the grid went down, chaos ruled. I vetted as many of the stories as I could and concluded:
…there is very little food, no fresh water, 97% are still without power, limited cell signals have stymied communications, and hospitals are struggling to keep people alive. There is no 911. Help is not on the way. If you have no cash, you can’t buy anything. As people get more desperate, violence increases. (source)
A friend wrote this post about her family on Puerto Rico:
“My family has lost everything. My uncle with stage 4 cancer is in so much pain and stuck in the hospital. However, conditions in the island are far worse than we imagined and my greatest fear has been made reality. The chaos has begun. The mosquitos have multiplied like the plague. Dead livestock are all over the island including in whatever fresh water supplies they have.
My family has been robbed and have lost whatever little they had left. The gang members are robbing people at gunpoint and the island is in desperation. People are shooting each other at gas stations to get fuel.
They’re telling us to rescue them and get them out of the island because they are scared for their lives. We’re talking about 3.5 million people on an island, with no food, no drinking water, no electricity, homes are gone. Family if you have the means to get your people out, do it. This is just the first week. Imagine the days and weeks to come. These are bad people doing bad things to our most vulnerable.
Imagine a few weeks with no resources and the most vulnerable become desperate. What are you capable of doing if your children are sick and hungry? We have to help.” (source)
Other outlets told the same stories. Jeffrey Holsman wrote a guest post for USA Today, sharing what he was witnessing.
The sounds of automatic weapons firing were audible Tuesday evening in San Juan. We were told the National Guard had arrived, but I hadn’t personally seen a Jeep or uniform in the streets yet.
Total darkness has swallowed Puerto Rico, as it has every night since the 12-hour monster Hurricane Maria roared across the island with more than 20 inches of rain and 155 mph winds. I’ve never experienced anything like it: wind and rain from every direction, pounding continuously.
Now, a war zone best describes what’s left of what was once an emerald green gem in the Caribbean…
…after Maria, we face hours upon hours of waiting in lines for gas that might not be there; hours waiting in bank and ATM lines for money that might not be there; hours waiting in grocery store lines for food that might not be there. (source)
It only took a few days before people began to become ill from the tainted water. There were many injuries related to the storm, as well as the aftermath, and these crises were compounded by the lack of medical assistance.
Only 11 of 69 hospitals on Puerto Rico have power or are running on generators, FEMA reports. That means there’s limited access to X-ray machines and other diagnostic and life-saving equipment. Few operating rooms are open, which is scary, considering an influx of patients with storm-related injuries. (source)
People were unable to acquire essential medications and treatments like dialysis.
And this was only the beginning.
One month after the disaster…
A month after Hurricane Maria, the situation was still very grim. Three million residents were still without electricity and one million were without running water. (source) Officials reported 54 deaths attributed to the hurricane but many said that the number was far higher. The mayor of San Juan said that the number of cremations had doubled and put the actual casualties at closer to 500 people.
She said: “It appears, for whatever reason, that the death toll is much higher than what has been reported. What we do know for sure is that people are being catalogued as dying…natural deaths”.
She explained that some of the deaths relating to the hurricane were being reported as “natural causes” because the storm was the secondary factor in their death.
For example, some people reportedly suffocated after their respirators stopped due to the power cut…
…The bodies were cremated before the medical examiner could determine whether they should have been included in the official death toll.
Accurate information about the figure is particularly important in the US because if a person dies in a natural disaster, their family has the right to claim federal aid. (source)
Evelyn Milagros Rodriguez, a librarian at the University of Puerto Rico wrote a first-person account of the aftermath during the first month post-Maria. She reported that the books, computers, and furniture at the library were mostly ruined and that mold had invaded the building. Here’s an excerpt from her story:
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