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Puerto Rico Still Struggling One Month After Hurricane Maria

  • VOA News

U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, left, as they take their seats for a briefing on hurricane relief efforts at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017.

One month after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, the basic necessities — food, water and power — are still in short supply on the island.

And the weather woes continue for the U.S. territory. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for a large part of the island Wednesday, including San Juan and the vicinity. Puerto Rico has had steady rain all week, and the NWS warned that with the soil saturated, many rivers and streams could overflow their banks if the heavy rains continue.

Puerto Rico's 3.4 million islanders, frustrated with a long-depressed economy and the devastation of Maria are expected to leave the island in droves. Governor Ricardo Rosello warned in a news conference last week that without significant help from the mainland, millions of Puerto Ricans could leave.

"You are not going to get hundreds of thousands Puerto Ricans moving to the states — you are going to get millions," he said.

Slow recovery

The exodus was spurred by the initial slow response from the federal government and the island's poor infrastructure that has made it hard for Puerto Ricans to recover from the damage caused by the Category 4 hurricane.

Across the island, residents have had to drink water contaminated with sewage or collected from a Superfund site, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Superfund sites are highly contaminated areas targeted by the federal government for cleanup.

"A month after Maria, 82 percent of Americans in Puerto Rico have no power 35 percent no water," Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia said in a tweet aimed at President Donald Trump on Wednesday. "And you're still tweeting attacks at football players."

But despite the slow recovery, Puerto Rico is filled with stories of hope and helping hands.

Washington chef Jose Andres has been leading a group of volunteers to feed the islanders since the hurricane hit. As of this week, the chef and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen hit a milestone in their campaign. According to The Washington Post, Andres' team has prepared and delivered a million meals to residents, while the American Red Cross has served 540,000 meals and snacks.

On Tuesday, Andres tweeted: "After 3 weeks, 500+ volunteers, today @WCKitchen #ChefsForPuertoRico served 1 millionth meal in Puerto Rico!"

Singers Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, along with baseball star Alex Rodriguez, have raised more than $35 million through a concert, a telethon and corporate donations, as well as personal giving. Private donations are pouring into the island as well.

But the recovery is requiring coordination of thousands of troops and federal agencies.

Trump is scheduled to meet with the Puerto Rico governor Thursday to discuss the recovery and rebuilding effort.

Rossello asked Trump on Oct. 2 to expand the disaster declaration so that federal funds can be spent on fixing damaged schools, buildings and power plants.

The governor has also asked the White House and Congress for at least $4.6 billion in block grants and other types of funding.

But Trump has suggested there will be a limit to how much help Puerto Rico could expect from Washington to solve its long-term issues.

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