There have been several major hurricanes that have made landfall and caused severe damage to affected areas. It is important to say that the response and recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria, which absolutely destroyed Puerto Rico, have been considerably different than those of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. There has been outrage by the lack of attention and importance in the overall conduction of disaster response and recovery. Hurricane Maria was at one point a Category 5 hurricane and made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico given the numbers here.
History Between the United States and Puerto Rico
The United States and Puerto Rico have a bumpy history that started with the Spanish-American War and Puerto Rico was considered a Spanish territory. The United States invaded Puerto Rico for another reason other than it was a Spanish territory; the U.S. wanted to establish a sugar market there. Puerto Ricans were promised protection of their life, liberty and happiness and in return, they started to strike businesses and property that was owned by Spanish people. Unfortunately, the United States went against their promise of protection.
Puerto Rico established a coffee market/industry, which the United States stepped in on because of their sugar market interest. The U.S. disrupted their day-to-day operations and increased poverty in Puerto Rico. Interestingly, in 1917 Puerto Ricans were considered U.S. citizens under the Jones-Shafroth act which allowed Puerto Ricans to deploy during World War I. The United States essentially contributed to Puerto Rico’s longstanding economic dysfunction.
Two Puerto Rican men attempted to assassinate President Truman as a way to establish Puerto Rico’s attendance. The history between the U.S and Puerto Rico is one that is difficult and deeply rooted.
If people are wondering why there is concern for a lack or delayed response to disaster, there are several factors to keep in mind when looking at the response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma and then looking at how the response was for Puerto Rico. Part of the concern is due to a troubled history of betrayal, dishonesty and structural racism. Other possible reasons may be:
1. There was planning and preparation prior to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma before making landfall. There was a lack of response and communication through Hurricane Maria and the storm’s aftermath. Why were volunteers and other workers put in designated areas with supplies and medical related subjects for Harvey and Irma but not Maria?
2. It has been over a week since Hurricane Maria touched down and Trump has not yet been there while he was in Texas and Florida within one week. Why?
3. The amount of people deployed to each location from the storm. Over 31,000 deployed for Hurricane Harvey in Texas and 40,000 for Hurricane Irma. The drastic decline seems a bit out of character for the prior two hurricanes before Maria and raises a red flag.
Why has there been a noticeable difference in response and recovery efforts we saw with Harvey and Irma? Considering the numbers and what they indicate clearly communicate that there was minimal, if any, preparation prior to Maria making landfall as well as responding appropriately with qualified individuals.
- $95 billion is the approximate amount of damage Puerto Rico suffered from Hurricane Maria
- 44% of the population do not have access to drinking water
- 18 confirmed deaths in Puerto Rico and is expected to rise
- 1.57 million people still do not have power
- 80-90% of Puerto Rico’s crops and agricultural industry was damaged
- 6 months is the estimated time power will be restored
- 100% of Puerto Rico’s electricity distribution system was damaged
- 90% is the estimate of homes that were damaged by Hurricane Maria
These are extremely concerning numbers and estimates for all of those in Puerto Rico. It raises concern for whether the lack of planning and preparation was intentional or overlooked. Puerto Rico has been in an economic crisis for quite a long time and was this one of the reasons it may not have been looked at as carefully? Could it have been the rocky history that dates back to 1898?
AHORA: Conferencia de prensa con la Alcaldesa de San Juan Carmen Yulín. #SJSeLevanta #PRSeLevanta #CiudadPatria
Posted by Municipio Autónomo de San Juan on Friday, September 29, 2017
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with inefficiency.”
That was San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz pleading for help and guidance from FEMA and other related agencies.
She emphasized that “this is a people dying story…not a good news story.” This is nothing to be joked about. The numbers and estimates listed here are far too high to be good, even if it could have been worse.
Photo Credit: Carmen Yulín