By Stephanye R. Clarke
Maria, a category 5 hurricane with destruction on her mind, set her sights on Puerto Rico last week and plowed through with reckless abandon, crippling the already-struggling island; annihilating the power grid and communications; and obliterating communities.
Last week, reports of widespread power outages flooded Facebook and Twitter timelines—at one point there were reports that the entire island was without power. This article describes many ways the lack of power exacerbates the existing crisis in Puerto Rico.
A FEMA press release indicates that forces are on the ground to aid in distribution of food, water and other critical supplies. However, several reports also indicate that efforts are not-well coordinated. The airport in San Juan is barely operational, thanks to limited power via generators, leaving many stranded in sweltering conditions with no food or water. The threat of the collapse of the Guajataca Dam has compounded already tense and frustrating circumstances.
The road to rebuilding, perhaps particularly on the islands, will be long and requiring major resources and supports. Many on the mainland anxiously await updates from their loved ones on the island. There are reports that millions of residents may have to wait months before power is restored. This means that schools, businesses, health care facilities, banks, etc. are unable to provide essential services to those in need.
Devastation is so widespread that it’s impossible to know how soon Puerto Rico will be able to recover. Gov. Ricardo Rossello requested that as much attention be paid to Puerto Rico as was paid to Texas and Florida.
And what of the health of our fellow Americans? With hospitals and health care centers completely or nearly out of commission, the need for medical supplies and medications is critical, as is the list of immediate needs for people to get through the next several weeks and months. And long after the power grid, cellular towers, schools, businesses, banks, churches, and hospitals are fully online, the trauma of loss, fear and hopelessness will likely still haunt residents.
To donate online to relief efforts visit Hispanic Federation at www.hispanicfederation.org or click here for a list of agencies. To stay up to date on other efforts happening around the state, be sure to “like” the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda’s Facebook page.
I’ll end this blog like we ended the last one:
It is our hope that while federal, state and private funds pour in to areas in the paths of these storms, leadership finds ways to engage community members in the rebuilding/redesign of neighborhoods. This is an opportunity for decision-makers and leaders to ensure that resources flow equitably to those most in need and planning actively engages the communities most impacted. The storms were a disaster – now it is time to take this moment to not only rebuild, but to build better. We exhort leaders to be thoughtful and strategic in their plans – and to truly work with people and communities.
We need not repeat the same injustices from the past.