Tuesday Reads: Puerto Rico’s Humanitarian CrisisPosted: September 26, 2017
The image above is from a flyover of Puerto Rico. You can see more on a twitter feed from NYT Primatology. For the past few days I’ve been dealing with a cold that is so draining it has destroyed my obsession with Trump news. The one thing I can still work up outrage over is what is happening in Puerto Rico. Of course that’s about Trump too. He obviously doesn’t give a shit about PR because he’s a motherfucking white supremacist.
A quick glance at Donald Trump’s Twitter feed over the weekend – arguably the president’s preferred method of communication – gave no hint of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
Instead, his attention was firmly focused on whether or not American footballers knelt or stood during the national anthem.
After he noticed he was being criticized for ignoring the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, Trump sent a series of cruel and unfeeling tweets.
This from a man who is blatantly profiting from the office he holds and who has declared bankruptcy six times to avoid paying what he owed to banks.
Back to the BBC article:
…when compared to Mr Trump’s response to the two hurricanes which preceded Maria, there does appear to be an imbalance.
Mr Trump sent at least one tweet out a day about Texas for a week after Hurricane Harvey barrelled into its coastline on 26 August, causing great damage and leaving at least 47 people dead.
By 2 September, he had asked Congress for $7.8bn (£6bn) as an initial amount to help rebuild the area.
Mr Trump also visited Texas twice within a week.
In the days after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on 10 September, Mr Trump sent a flurry of tweets – although not as many as with Texas – and visited the area within five days.
So far, no date has been set for a visit to Puerto Rico, although one is planned.
The Washington Post: Trump declares Puerto Rico is in ‘deep trouble’ as questions mount about his commitment.
Monday night’s tweets were the first from Trump about Puerto Rico since Wednesday, when the hurricane made landfall and Trump declared “we are with you.”
Power remains out on much of the island, and officials say they are facing numerous logistical challenges, including damage to airports and ports. But FEMA says its response has been robust, including the deployment of 10,000 federal workers….
Trump’s lack of public attention to Puerto Rico has been striking in part because of the major focus he put on helping Texas and Florida recover from earlier hurricanes, a factor many analysts have cited in explaining Trump’s recent uptick in his job approval numbers.
During a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was peppered with questions about Trump’s priorities, including his focus on Puerto Rico.
She noted that Trump had dispatched Brock Long, the FEMA administrator, and Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, to assess the damage in Puerto Rico.
“The federal response has been anything but slow,” Sanders said. “In fact, there’s been an unprecedented push through of billions of dollars in federal assistance that the administration has fought for. … And once we have a greater insight into the full assessment of damage, then we’ll be able to determine what additional funds are needed.”
Really? People have no electricity, water, or food, but they are still “assessing the damage” days after the storm hit? It looks to me as if Trump has another Katrina on his hands. I need to see the evidence that he’s actually doing something before I buy the administration’s happy talk.
I don’t know if this is for real or not, but it sure sounds like it:
Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.
Most food stores and restaurants remain closed. That is largely because power is out for most of the island and few have generators or enough diesel to power them. The shops that were open Monday had long lines outside and vast empty shelves where they once held milk, meat and other perishables. Drinking water was nowhere to be found.
Mercedes Caro shook her head in frustration as she emerged from the SuperMax in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan with a loaf of white bread, cheese and bananas.
“There is no water and practically no food,” she said. “Not even spaghetti.”
Maria Perez waited outside a Pueblo supermarket in a nearby part of San Juan, hoping to buy some coffee, sugar and maybe a little meat to cook with a gas stove that has enough propane for about a week more. “We are in a crisis,” she said. “Puerto Rico is destroyed.”
A nursing home in San Juan made desperate pleas for diesel as its power generator ran low. An elderly man was carried out on a stretcher after going a week without dialysis. Children wearing nothing but diapers camped out on balconies to stay cool.
Hurricane Maria, which smashed into the island six days ago and devastated its power grid, couldn’t have come at a worse time. This is Puerto Rico’s hottest season of the year — and virtually no one has air conditioning. Crews have arrived to begin the arduous task of resurrecting what was already an aging and long-neglected electricity system. But that’ll take weeks, if not months — meaning more sleepless nights for those like Juan Bautista Gonzalez.
“It’s brutal,” said Gonzalez, a 36-year-old carpenter who was sitting on a stoop in Old San Juan, rubbing his forehead in frustration. “No one can sleep. I spend all night tossing and turning. This is chaos.”
The destruction that Maria exacted upon Puerto Rico’s fragile grid when it slammed ashore as a Category 4 storm is unprecedented. More than half of the territory’s towers may be down, at least 90 percent of its distribution lines damaged or destroyed and almost all overhead transmission lines affected, according to the American Public Power Association and Energy Department. All told, Maria could result in $40 billion to $85 billion in insured losses across the Caribbean.
In the 32 years that National Guard brigadier general Wendul G. Hagler II has served, he said, “It’s about as large a scale damage as I have ever seen.” Just before Maria hit, Hagler visited the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the majority of homes and businesses also remain without power and face a slow recovery.
Miguel Olivera, now 75, survived combat and being impacted by Agent Orange in Cambodia as the US waged war against the Viet Cong decades ago.
Now, at home in Puerto Rico, he is facing another threat to his life — a fridge without power.
He needs insulin to survive but his last vial is sitting, at risk of spoiling, in that refrigerator that can no longer keep it cool.
His town, Aguas Buenas, in the mountains above San Juan, was left tattered by Hurricane Maria. The lush tropical foliage is gone — as if a massive lawnmower came from the sky and shredded it all.
Olivera and his wife Diana Aponte, 73, sheltered from the storm inside their home — it’s built on concrete stilts sunk into the hillside, and Aponte feared it would slide into the ravine.
Water came through the shutters as the wind howled outside, and at one point the couple huddled on the living room floor, prepared to die together.
“The hurricane is worse” than combat, Olivera says.
The Daily Beast: Even the National Guard Can’t Communicate in Puerto Rico.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Master Sgt. Shaun Withers was nervously waiting in his office at the 165th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard’s strip in Savannah, Georgia, on Sunday morning. Outside a C-130 loaded up with supplies for Puerto Rico also waited in the dark.
“We’re ramping up, today is day one,” Withers said, adding the flight had been postponed several times.
Just then the phone rang, and Withers jumped up.
“It’s a go! Wheels up at 0100 hours!”
It was the fifth and last flight for that day.
“Our first flights brought back 103 members of Puerto Rico’s National Guard, evacuated before Maria hit,” Withers said. “They had not heard from their families since.”
This is an important article, and I can’t do it justice with excerpts. Please read the whole thing. Here’s just a bit more:
“Last night we slept in the operations room,” said Capt. Jeff Rutkowski, sitting in a small break room with five other members of his unit, the 115th Fighter Wing Air National Guard from Madison, Wisconsin.
They’ve been brought in to fix areas left without communication.
“There’s no communication, that’s the problem,” Rutkowski said, adding “we’re innovators, we bridge the networks.”
Without working cellphones or the internet, no one could coordinate. The newly arrived teams frantically borrowed each others’ vehicles to go find out what was going on, where they should go, who they should report to, what was being planned, who was doing what, establish a simple meeting.
No internet meant, too, there was no way of knowing what were urgent priorities in San Juan and throughout the country.
“I’ve never experienced work without being able to communicate,” said an exasperated Michelle Alvarez-Rea, a public affairs officer in charge of multiple media requests.
But Trump is too busy shoring up his base with racist rallies and tweets to deal with this crisis. We’ve got to get rid of him!
One more from The Guardian: Puerto Rico is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. Where is the media?
Hurricane Maria – the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years – devastated the island when it hit early Wednesday morning. If the US government doesn’t act swiftly, 3.5 million people will face a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
Currently, large swathes of the island have no water, power or cell phone coverage. An incredible 1,360 out of 1,600 cellphone towers are down. According to some reports, it could take four to six months for electricity to be restored. Hospitals and other emergency services are struggling to cope.
As Maria made landfall, many Puerto Ricans on the US mainland and elsewhere scrambled to get news of their loved ones on the island. Most, if not all of us, turned to social media. Why? Because we couldn’t trust major media outlets in the United States to give us in-depth coverage of the devastation. Our disasters, we figured, just don’t rate high enough in their eyes.
Sadly – we were proven right. The destruction in Puerto Rico received relatively little media attention compared to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Traditional broadcasters deployed a meager team of reporters. Even the Hispanic broadcasters on the mainland proved wanting in their coverage.
That’s why we relied on social media to relay vital information to family and friends. We used it to tell them which gas stations were open, which markets were still selling food and which banks still had cash. Social media became our life line.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump – usually very active on social media himself – was silent throughout the weekend on Puerto Rico. Instead of standing with those suffering, he chose instead to pick a fight with the NFL. Judging by his actions so far, few trust that he will do anything to bring attention to the devastation on the island, let alone address it in a meaningful way.
Read more at the link.
That’s all I’ve got. What else is happening? Plenty, I know. What stories are you following?