Needs go unmet 6 months after Maria hit Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Generators are still humming. Candles are still flickering. Homes are still being repaired.
Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria exactly six months ago, and the U.S. territory is still struggling to recover from the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly a century.
"There are a lot of people with needs," said Levid Ortiz, operating director of PR4PR, a local nonprofit that helps impoverished communities across the island. "It shouldn't be like this. We should already be back on our feet."
Some 250 Puerto Ricans formed a line around him on a recent weekday, standing for more than two hours to receive bottles of water and a box of food at a public basketball court in the mountain town of Corozal. Many of those waiting were still without power, including 23-year-old Keishla Quiles, a single mother with a 4-year-old son who still buys ice every day to fill a cooler to keep milk and other goods cold amid rising temperatures.
"Since we're a family of few resources, we have not been able to afford a generator," she said. "It's been hard living like this."
Crews already have restored water to 99 percent of clients and power to 93 percent of customers, but more than 100,000 of them still remain in the dark and there are frequent power outages.
Justo Gonzalez, former interim director for Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority, said he expects the entire island to have power by May, eight months after the Category 4 storm destroyed two-thirds of the island's power distribution system – and just as the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is about to start.
Gonzalez was replaced today by Walter Higgins, former president of a power company that provided electricity in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Officials in Puerto Rico have pledged to inspect dozens of wooden and cement poles still leaning haphazardly across the island after a wooden telephone pole fell on a car. It killed an elderly couple on Sunday as they returned from a town fair in the mountains of western Puerto Rico. The deaths of Luis Beltran, 62, and Rosa Bosque, 60, have angered Puerto Ricans and raised concerns about the safety of people as they recover from the hurricane.