Puerto Rico is reeling from Hurricane Maria. Having just passed over the US territory – home to nearly 3.5 million American citizens – the category 3 hurricane has caused catastrophic flooding, knocked out electricity across the entire island, and killed at least 13 people as of the most recent estimates.
The flooding is has caused the destruction of the Guajataca dam, which is currently cracking under the pressure of surging storm waters. Authorities are evacuating 70,000 residents living in the area via bus, though a narrow evacuation route has complicated efforts and could threaten the lives of many.
This latest natural disaster comes on the heels of Hurricane Irma, which battered the Caribbean, rendered one half of the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda uninhabitable, and lashed life-threatening winds along the Florida Keys.
The US National Weather Service has issued a number of dire warnings concerning Hurricane Maria, underscoring the immediate risks posed by the storm that are still ongoing.
This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION. Busses are currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can #prwx
— NWS San Juan (@NWSSanJuan) September 22, 2017
Puerto Rico has been suffering from an ecalating debt crisis for which it has received little assistance from Washington. This only exacerbates the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria, which could take months or even years for the island to recover. Some analysts predict that the territory may require generator power for a longtime to come.
Congress and the nation’s deeply unpopular president have pledged support. But as the party that controls both the legislature and executive branch continue to deny the reality of the ecological phenomena caused by climate change, meaningful assistance that makes a lasting impact seems unlikely.