CHICAGO — Fiona cut power to Puerto Rico’s three million residents and safe drinking water is also unavailable in many parts.
The latest setback comes as Puerto Rico is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated the island in September 2017. It’s why in Chicago, the Puerto Rican community is again rallying support to help in any way possible.
Former Congressman Luis Gutierrez flew out of the island Saturday as Fiona was baring down.
“Maria was 140, 150 miles an hour but it swept across the island,” Gutierrez said. “This one literally sat over the island of Puerto Rico for nearly 48 hours and in some places dumping 50 inches of rain. The damage is going to be incredible.”
As they did with Hurricane Maria, supporters of the Chicago-based Puerto Rican Agenda are appealing for essential goods.
“Even with our deep internal political differences in times like this, we still come together for the greater good,” said Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward).
Maldonado says the immediate concern is to help with basic needs like food, water and shelter. The alderman also suggests it times to hold the power company responsible.
“It is a publicly traded corporation which has received millions and millions from the build back fund,” he said. “What have they done after five years? Absolutely nothing.”
Maldonado says reliable power has been an issue since Hurricane Maria, which took 11 months to restore. During that time of sweltering heat, hundreds of people got sick and died from horrible conditions. As of Tuesday, only 100,000 residents have had their power restored. The company says complete restoration could take several days but likely longer.
President Joe Biden has pledged to help in any way possible. But assessing the total damage will take time, with as much as 30-inches of rain falling, flooding will be a factor for days.
“From the people of Puerto Rico, from my family, from my neighbors. They’re exhausted. This was like Groundhog Day,” said Ald. Rosanna Rodriguez (33rd Ward).
Rodriguez said the devastating effects of Maria five years ago were never fixed.
“This is unacceptable,” she said. “Puerto Rico not only needs a new grid, and a new power structure that is going to sustain itself and it is going to be resilient in the face of climate change, and we need to ensure that that gets done.”