Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The impact and destruction have never been seen on this scale before, not in Puerto Rico, nor in any of the states. Katrina seriously impacted New Orleans and surrounding cities. This is affecting the entire island of Puerto Rico – more than 3 million habitants.
There is not a true count of the death and injuries thus far, as there is no electricity on the island and communications are more and more complicated. The roads are severely flooded. The city has cut off water. One can only imagine that either the city infrastructure (pumps to get fresh water to the people) have no gas/electricity or that the reservoir has been completely contaminated by salt water. Either way, no fresh, treated water from the city can be expected in the near future. At best, days. Some have cisterns filled with water, though without conserving this for drinking only, this will be quickly depleted. There are already many already with no drinking water. As there is no electricity, there is no way to sell things: no visa/mastercard. No ATMs to get cash. Very few places can open as the employees cannot arrive due to the flooded roads. As money is now meaningless in much of Puerto Rico, and there is no food or water, many grocery stores have been pillaged for survival purposes. And this is the beginning. When people are hungry and thirsty (many now and most of the 3 million inhabitants very soon) things will get worse. The emergency workers/police and their families are in the same situation as everyone else. No electricity. No water. No way to get to many areas in Puerto Rico.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW
Without both massive private and public help, this will turn into a humanitarian disaster unlike any the US has seen.
- ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS needs to make Puerto Rico their number one mission. Now. How to evacuate the water from the flooded areas to restore the ability to travel (allowing both food deliveries, water pumps to be repaired, water trucks to distribute water, and gas trucks to the people with generators to allow some immediate electric).
- MILITARY needs to be on the ground to restore order. MARTIAL LAW should be considered if this would help restore law and order and get supplies to everyone. There is already a 6PM curfew.
- NAVY AND COAST GUARD SHIPS need to be used as supply ships for the island. These ships make their own fresh water using boilers. These need to be surrounding the island to make easy access for Puerto Ricans to access food and water until infrastructure can be restored. Vieques and Culebra island, along with St. Thomas cannot be forgotten.
- CRUISE SHIPS from Royal Caribbean, Princess, Disney and all others need to be either voluntarily coordinating efforts to act as floating hotels and food supply ships, or, they need to be commanded by the government. Private cruises must be cancelled by the cruise ships or the government to make immediate relief efforts possible.
- PRIVATE COMPANIES: Food companies such as COSTCO, battery companies such as ENERGIZER, SOLAR COMPANIES such as GOAL ZERO, rain water systems such as Rain Harvest, gas tank companies, and those that specialize in logistics, such as AMAZON, need to be making MASSIVE and coordinate efforst to get supplies to Puerto Rico NOW.
- AIRLINES: JETBLUE, American and others that fly to San Juan need to either coordinate food and supply drives on their own, or coordinate with relief efforts of the Red Cross and others.
- COMMERCIAL VESSELS: Ships that deliver cargo/cars/etc need to be rerouted to deliver food and water and the above donations to Puerto Rico.
FINALLY, and a bit more long term, the infrastructure repairs should be done in a way with a focus on SOLAR and WIND energy, with grids that are not dependant on one another. Another hurricane will occur one day (the season does not end until November 30th), and this is the opportunity to make the needed changes to the outdated and very expensive energy infrastructure of Puerto Rico. Currently, the electric company buys oil from the USA, ships it to Puerto Rico, and uses it to in their outdated electric plant to make electricity, distributed on outdated electric lines that need constant repair on a regular basis. This is one reason that Puerto Rico has the most expensive electrical rates in the entire US. By making smaller, localized grids of power, it would be highly unlikely that any one incident would shut down the entire island.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Contact local companies for their support and donations. Food/water/money/logistics. If you have contacts in the airline or cruise ship industries, or in the government/military, let them know that action is needed now. The emergency organizations are not equipped to deal with an emergency of this size…This needs to be a massive, private and public assistance effort. It cannot wait. PLEASE FORWARD AND POST THIS BLOG POST.
We are directly in touch with people on the ground in San Juan, Puerto Rico and coordinating immediate relief as well. We are providing items requested by personnel on site, such as solar phone chargers, hand crank chargers, and updating this list daily. If you would like to donate to this fund, please do so at https://www.youcaring.com/hurricanemaria
This article originally appeared on the Coqui del Mar website.
Hurricane Maria: What needs to be done now to prevent a humanitarian disaster
Here is a link to NOAA’s aerial photos site.