Puerto Rico ‘Obliterated’ by Maria
September 22, 2017
President Donald Trump said he plans to visit Puerto Rico soon, saying the U.S. island territory was “obliterated” by Hurricane Maria earlier this week.
Prior to a sideline meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the United Nations, President Trump said:
“Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated. Puerto Rico got hit with winds—they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere. It got hit as a five—Category 5 storm—which just literally never happens.
So Puerto Rico is in very, very, very tough shape. Their electrical grid is destroyed. It wasn’t in good shape to start off with, but their electrical grid is totally destroyed and so many other things. So we’re starting the process now and we’ll work with the governor and the people of Puerto Rico. But Puerto Rico is a whole different category in many ways—in many ways.
But it is—in fact, you just—all you have to do is read or turn on the television and you’ll see a place that was practically leveled. It’s incredible, the power of that wind. That was a very unique—not for many decades has a storm hit a piece of land like that.
So Puerto Rico will start the process. With—we have actually Tom Bossert is with us in the other room. We’re just talking about it. We’re going to start it with great gusto, but it’s in very, very, very perilous shape. Very sad what happened to Puerto Rico.”
He also noted the U.S. Virgin Islands were flattened” by the storm, which he said was unlike anything the region had seen in many years. He said his team had started the relief process, saying they’ve already proven themselves to be “incredible.”
10 DEAD SO FAR
In Puerto Rico, the death toll has climbed to 10 in Puerto Rico, according to Gov. Ricardo Rossello. Eight people were killed in the town of Toa Baja after a flood gate was ripped open by the storm and alarms failed to sound, drowning them.
The entire island lost power due to Maria, and while original repair estimates said it could take up to six months to restore electricity, those have since been amended to about a month for the most remote areas. Much cleanup work remains to be done, however.
Del. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (D-P.R.) said she spent much of the storm hiding in a closet in her home. She described rivers flowing over bridges and downed power lines everywhere she looked in its aftermath.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said 95 percent of the cellular phone service has been knocked out, as well. That has only added to the concerns of family members now living in the mainland U.S. who are trying to call back and check on their loved ones.
No deaths were reported on the Virgin Islands, although there was significant damage there, as well. Gov. Kenneth Mapp said Thursday night he would be lifting the curfew, except on heavily damaged St. Croix, for four hours Friday to allow residents to get additional supplies.
Thursday evening, the White House announced the president had spoken with the territorial governors of both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Disaster declarations have also been signed for both territories, freeing up even more assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
ELSEWHERE IN THE CARIBBEAN
The rest of the Caribbean struck by Maria is still trying to recover. Dominica, which was the first to bear the full brunt of the storm’s fury with 155 mph winds, is still trying to grapple with the sheer magnitude of the damage it faces.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told a television station in nearby Antigua at least 15 were dead and another 20 people were still unaccounted for. He said:
“We have many deaths, but it is just a miracle that we do not have hundreds of deaths in the country. Because when you look at the destruction, people were in those homes.”
He said electrical power and water have been cut across the island, and communications are nearly impossible. Homes and schools have been destroyed, and the main hospital is without electricity.
He also noted that his country still needed to assess the villages of “indigenous people” on the island. He said it would be a miracle if no one died there.
Skerrit is traveling to New York City today to seek help from world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
Meanwhile, Maria continues to churn off the Turks and Caicos islands, moving northwest at 9 mph. It still is a dangerous Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph.
TEXAS, FLORIDA UPDATES
The president also provided updates on Texas and Florida, which took the brunt of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively, during his comments before his meeting with Poroshenko:
“[W]e spoke with Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, and I will tell you, Texas is doing really, really well. Those people are working hard and effectively, and you have a great governor. And Texas is really coming out of that horrible Hurricane Harvey really, really well.
Florida, very similar. Great governor, Rick Scott—spoke with him. Florida was—I mean, they were hit hard, they were hit hard. But they’re doing very, very well. Ahead of schedule. The power is back on—almost, for the most part, outside of the Keys where you have a devastation problem, but even there we’re working very hard. But Florida is doing really well. So Texas, Florida, we give it an A-plus.”