September 20 was a tragic date for the Puerto Rico inhabitants. It was the day when Hurricane Maria hit the island with full force. Even though people were warned by it, nobody expected it to be so intense. The Category 4 storm came with 150 mph winds, dividing the entire island. Let’s have a look at the heartbreaking Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria pictures that show the devastation and try to understand what exactly happened there.
Understanding the Context
Before analyzing the chronology of what happened, it’s important to look a little at the context. Up until September 2017, Puerto Rico wasn’t going through the best period in history. The country had a national debt of over $70 billion. The government had to close more than 200 schools. In 2016, a considerable part of the population emigrated to mainland U.S., looking for better opportunities. Finally, the entire country has been battling a harsh economic recession ever since 2006.
To the worsening economic situation, we need to add the high levels of corruption as well. Together with an increasing emigration process, this only helped in expanding the levels of inequality and poverty. Sadly, all this lead to a shortage of personnel both in the public and private domains. The Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria pictures we present show how overwhelmed the authorities were. Even though Hurricane Irma was also expected to hit in September 2017, it spared the island, hitting other areas in the U.S. However, the Puerto Ricans weren’t so lucky with Hurricane Maria though, which hit with full force.
Perhaps the most destructive Atlantic storm ever recorded, Hurricane Maria is the only one to hit a large area so comprehensively in the last 60 years. Surprisingly, the damage made by the storm was astounding. People who walked the island immediately after hurricane Maria hit witnessed an apocalyptic scenery. Many houses were turned inside out, just like dollhouses. Trees were bent and broken, parts of them having flown all over the place.
Immediately after the storm, the power was cut off on the entire island. Tragically, the blackout lasted for days in a row. Besides electricity, people couldn’t have access to drinkable water. There wasn’t enough available diesel to make generators in supermarkets, gas stations or hospitals work. This, in turn, meant that many people didn’t have food or gas.
Desperate survivors tried to gather up all their belongings from the ruins. Life had become a jungle fight for any resource they could find. Around 2,000 people were saved from flash floods those days. And as if this wasn’t enough, a damaged dam required people to host a massive evacuation. At the same time, the port and airport in San Juan were inoperable, which meant the American helpers couldn’t reach the island fast enough. Moreover, the latter were dealing with their own damage left behind by Hurricane Irma. Finally, the Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria pictures show exactly how people tried to survive with whatever they had at hand.
Luckily, donations started to pour in from all over the world. The Red Cross, Catholic charities and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation raised as much money as they could to help the island get back on its feet. They brought millions of dollars to help with food and drinkable water, as well as restoring electricity in parts of the island. However, people couldn’t stop noticing a huge problem with the donations.
Low Media Coverage
Whoever has a look at the charts will notice that the amounts donated for Hurricane Maria were far smaller than the ones given to Hurricane Harvey or Irma. For example, the Red Cross only raised $9 million for Maria, while for Harvey they brought$350 million, and Irma got $45 million. Moreover, the same thing happened with other charity organization as well. This prompted many people to ask themselves what was the problem.
To answer the question, one of the problems was the fact that media didn’t cover the topic as well as they did with the first storms. Furthermore, this also led to a lower degree of awareness worldwide. According to some, people had already donated to the other areas that were hit first and weren’t willing to give more now. Moreover, those who listened to the news had already invested emotionally with Harvey and Irma, thus becoming desensitized to Puerto Rico.
Other Environmental Issues
What the Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria pictures don’t show is the environmental danger. Naturally, the hurricane ravaged the nature on the island, leaving no stone unturned. One of the biggest problems in this field is the Superfund issue. The super fund sites refer to places containing hazardous waste. Consequently, this represents a risk for the environment there, especially since the storm rain liquefied the dangerous substances there.
Agriculture Is Affected
Maria affected agriculture as well. The hurricane caused most of the farmers in the country to lose a major part of their livelihood. The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture in Puerto Rico declared that 80% of the crop value was destroyed. He added that it can even take up to a year for the farms to get back to the original production levels if all the requirements are met.
Luckily, farmers have access to various programs and benefits offered by the American government. However, not all of them are aware of this, since most have no access to communications. Both the Department of Agriculture in the country and the U.S. one are willing to offer financial assistance to the farmers.
What Will Happen in the Future?
Finally, throughout the period following the hurricane Maria damage, authorities proved they are lagging in offering the right assistance and help. Months after, there were still problems with restoring electricity all over the country. Sadly, many people are still living in the dark and have problems finding food daily. They shut down the schools ever since, and the American authorities’ response attracted critics from all over the world. However, the people there haven’t lost their hope and are still waiting to receive materials to rebuild their homes and schools, food for the children, and access to various ways of communications.
Featured image source: Carlos Giusti for The Atlantic