If the endlessly refreshing news cycle has allowed you to forget that Puerto Rico was completely and utterly unprepared in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, consider this a reminder: Puerto Rico was completely and utterly unprepared in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the island’s residents are still suffering from its government’s incompetence nearly three months later.
Sure, you could make the case that after Category 5 Maria rolled through, downing electrical wires, leveling houses and knocking out power on the entire island, it was inevitably going to take some time to get things back on track. Some time was reasonable, but three onths? That’s a disgrace.
First-hand accounts of the conditions nearly a million people on the island have been living under make it hard to believe the government’s reports that nearly the entire island could hope to have power restored by Christmas. No power, no running water. It’s pure hell, with only the promises of a government who had failed to restore the most basic of necessities to sustain hope. But a lack of water and power were just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the complete inability to keep Puerto Ricans safe.
‘My family has been robbed and have lost whatever little they had left. The gang members are robbing people at gunpoint and the island is in desperation. People are shooting each other at gas stations to get fuel.
They’re telling us to rescue them and get them out of the island because they are scared for their lives. We’re talking about 3.5 million people on an island, with no food, no drinking water, no electricity, homes are gone. Family if you have the means to get your people out, do it. This is just the first week. Imagine the days and weeks to come. These are bad people doing bad things to our most vulnerable.’ (Organic Prepper)
In retrospect, only days and weeks in these conditions would have been merciful. In reality, the chaos has lasted for over three months.
Before you start to say that the government can’t be expected to keep their people safe from mobs of roving gangs sticking them up for what few valuables they had to cling to, I’ll frame it another way. The government, with their notoriously restrictive gun laws, should have considered what lay in wait for its people in a scenario that saw the entire island’s power grid go down. Specifically, mobs of roving gangs sticking them up with the guns law-abiding citizens were legally banned from possessing. This isn’t a land-locked state, where residents can up and move their lives temporarily to a neighboring one until it’s safe to return. This was, to state the obvious, an island that managed to lose all of its power, with its residents left to wait in the darkness, without drinkable water, for god-knows-who to knock the door down, guns drawn.
At the very least, the government could have been prepared to get debris cleared, water restored, and the power grid up and running more promptly than the three-plus months it has proven to take. Because, if you are going to get robbed at gun point in the wake of your life being completely leveled by hurricane-force winds, you deserve to have your lights on afterward.
Alas, Puerto Ricans were not even afforded this simplest of dignities. As of December 19th, more than 30% of the island is still without power. That Christmas power restoration deadline isn’t looking so promising, is it?
Who would trust a government that isn’t even able to get within the ballpark of the actual death count? We’re not talking a minor rounding error. We’re not even talking an accounting error in the range of fifty or even two hundred deaths. Three hundred would be way too close an estimate to ask of this government.
No, Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello isn’t calling for a review of the official death count because the government only minorly flubbed the numbers.
Unofficial estimate of deaths in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma: approx. 1,000
Official death count, courtesy of the Puerto Rican government: 64
“We always expected that the number of hurricane-related deaths would increase as we received more factual information — not hearsay — and this review will ensure we are correctly counting everybody,” Rossello said.
We can’t imagine how trying it is keeping up with families reporting the death of loved ones after a natural disaster, only for it to turn out as hearsay. Collapsed homes, flooding, hospitals left without power, lack of drinkable water, and you know, the roving armed gangs left unimpeded certainly couldn’t have resulted in more than 64 deaths, right governor? Has to be hearsay…
It’s hard to imagine a government more out of touch with what its island would need in the wake of such a devastating hurricane. Power, water, healthcare, tools for self-defense, an honest accounting of the dead. Yet, it’s been confirmed: if there was ever a government mentally equipped to be thoroughly and utterly out of touch with its people’s needs, it’s Rossello’s.
They weren’t prepared for the worst case scenario, they weren’t prepared to secure effective aid in taking responsibility for the island’s recovery. Hell, they weren’t even prepared to count the dead. Puerto Ricans are surely wondering what makes them prepared to reside over the next inevitable disaster.
They aren’t prepared. A government who puts off an official, accurate death count in the name of ‘avoiding heresay’ will never be prepared for such a scenario. There’s a lack of unpreparedness in such leadership that can’t be fixed. That smug bastard Lin-Manuel Miranda would be a better choice to run the island at this point.
Which means, of course, that New York City should brace themselves. If you thought you were overcrowded now, wait for the Great Puerto Rican Diaspora of 2018. Such miserable, hellish living conditions are enough to frighten the Puerto Rican population off of one island– Puerto Rico – onto another, Manhattan. The Bronx or Brookyln might do, but you can’t blame them for concluding that when it comes time to relocate, ‘anywhere but Puerto Rico’ is a justifiable response.