Rebuilding Puerto Rico: Where do we go from here?
With cities and towns are still under water, people still missing, and communication still extremely limited both in and out, the islands seem desolate. As the death count continues to rise and people are still without power it becomes clearer and clearer that Puerto Rico is suffering from an absolutely egregious humanitarian crisis. People have no access to water, food, or medical care, despite there being resources ready to ship.
3,000 shipping containers packed with food water & medicene have been sitting at the port in Puerto Rico since Saturday pic.twitter.com/LJ0ETpmnOf
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 27, 2017
Puerto Rico has been suffering for quite a while from extreme debt, low employment rates, and a mass exodus of citizens looking for better opportunities elsewhere. After this catastrophic dual smash of hurricanes, things are looking even more grim. Many people are feeling helpless, more people have left permanently, and some are feeling trapped by the destruction that the hurricanes have brought to the islands. The question now is: where do we go and what do we do from here?
At this point the almost all islands are still without power and most, if not everything, on the islands is in a state of dysfunction, and likely will be for many months. What power there is, is from generators and is going to hospitals and emergency services. People are stranded with no water, no food, and no way to be mobile, communicate, or rebuild. Aid in any form is slow to arrive and to assist the struggling populace.
Many people agree that the first thing is to keep people alive, which is why it is imperative to make sure supplies are being sent over, and that immediate care is being administered. Following that the next step to recovery is to rebuild, but what that looks like is unclear, and where to begin is confusing and uncertain. Many relief efforts are focused on handing out water, food, and gasoline, and ensuring that citizens have necessities. The USNS Comfort, a medical ship, has been deployed to provide medical assistance as well. Long term recovery is another issue altogether, and much of the contention has come from the Federal Government’s unwillingness to provide the funding for relief efforts. While Governor Rosselló has indicated that more relief is arriving everyday, he knows that the long term effects will be much more of an issue, stating that the the roads in Puerto Rico have been decimated.
Electricity and communications need to reestablished as quickly as possible, and following that, assessing the cost and timeline for rebuilding houses, businesses, and island structures is important. The slow response is keeping the islands in a state of crisis, and much of legislation previously enacted, like the Jones Act, had been keeping the people from jump starting a recovery act. And while private charities are doing all they can, there will be no quick fix. It’s been nearly three weeks since the hurricane hit, limited communication has been reestablished, but there is still no power, and little food. An unsure populace faces an uncertain future and feels the hopelessness of isolation. Right now, working together for safety should be the priority of Puerto Ricans and all Americans.