Puerto Rico recovering slowly 2 years after Maria
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Weekly power outages. Hundreds of uncleared landslides. More than 25,000 homes with blue tarps as roofs.
Recovery from Hurricane Maria has been slow as Puerto Rico on Friday remembered those who died two years ago. The Category 4 storm killed an estimated 2,975 people in its aftermath and caused more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.
It was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in nearly a century, sparking an estimated exodus of nearly 160,000 people to the U.S. mainland.
Still delayed are millions of dollars in federal funds that local officials say are needed to repair roads, build new homes and improve the island’s unstable power grid, making it hard for Puerto Rico to recover as it struggles to emerge from a 13-year recession.
Officials say the island is not entirely ready to withstand another direct hit at the height of hurricane season, noting that hurricanes Dorian and Jerry passed just northeast of Puerto Rico this month.
While U.S. Congress has appropriated nearly $43 billion in federal hurricane recovery funds for Puerto Rico, only $13.3 billion of the $21 billion obligated by the U.S. government has been disbursed, Ottmar Chavez, executive director of the island’s Central Office for Reconstruction and Recovery, told The Associated Press.
“We certainly still have many needs, and there’s still work to do,” he said.
The state of the power grid remains one of the biggest concerns for Puerto Ricans since reconstruction has not even started.
“It’s a project that will take seven years or more,” Jose Sepulveda, transmission and distribution engineer for Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, said.
He said the power company seeks $8 billion in hurricane recovery funds for upcoming projects.