In Puerto Rico, a 'Humanitarian Emergency'

Hurricane Maria has knocked out power that may not be back for six months
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2017 4:16 AM CDT
Puerto Rico Could Be Without Power for Months
In this Sept. 21, 2017, trees stand stripped of their foliage by the winds of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.   (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Hurricane Maria moved toward the Turks and Caicos islands early Friday as a weakened but still extremely dangerous Category 3 hurricane. The storm has left a trail of devastation behind it and caused at least 32 deaths on Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico, where the entire electrical grid was knocked out; it could take up to six months to restore power to all of the island's 3.5 million people. In the capital of San Juan, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz says she hasn't seen devastation like it before. "The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there," Cruz tells NBC News. "We're looking at four to six months without electricity."

Puerto Rico's state power company stopped carrying out basic maintenance in recent years amid the island's debt crisis, meaning the storm hit infrastructure that was already in terrible shape, the AP reports. Residents are also low on food and water. Many are considering moves to the US mainland. "There's a humanitarian emergency here in Puerto Rico," Gov. Ricardo Rossello says. FEMA says starting Friday, there will be three or four daily military flights to the island carrying generators, food, and other supplies. Reuters reports that according to local media, the hurricane killed at least 15 Puerto Ricans, including eight who drowned in the Toa Baja area, where thousands were rescued from floods. (Read more Hurricane Maria stories.)

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