Puerto ricans are still dying in hurricane maria’s wake – cnnpolitics how to grow sugar cane from seed

Her father’s health had long been troubled. He had diabetes, lung disease, sleep apnea and congestive heart failure. And in the months since hurricane maria battered this coastal town, lourdes watched his condition worsen. The sleep apnea machine he needed to help him breathe was useless for months because their hilltop neighborhood in maunabo was entirely without electric power. In december, a business had donated a generator to power the machine at night, but the family struggled to afford the gasoline needed to keep it running.

Hurricane harvey hit the gulf coast of texas on august 25. The next day, an estimated 304,000 customers were without power — yet all but about 2,600 had electricity restored in 19 days, according to data provided to CNN by the public utility commission of texas. Florida after hurricane irma?


That storm left an estimated 6.2 million customers in florida without electricity on september 11, according to the florida public service commission, which, like the commission in texas, collects data from electric utilities.Puerto rico in a little more than two weeks, virtually all power was back.

These comparisons are, of course, imprecise. No two storms are the same in terms of intensity, needs or geography. Puerto rico is an island and, as federal officials have said repeatedly since the storm, you can’t just drive in supplies from another state. Communications systems were down and many roads were impassible in the first weeks after the storm. The island’s power grid also was in lousy shape, by many accounts, before hurricane maria. Comparing that grid to florida’s, which is the gold standard for preparedness, is somewhat unfair, said seth guikema, an associate professor of engineering at the university of michigan, who studies grids and disaster response. After hurricane andrew in 1992, he said, some florida utilities built concrete posts and took other measures to ensure power could be restored faster after storms.

When rodriguez was a boy, slavery had long been abolished, of course; and the spanish had been kicked out of puerto rico by a new colonial power: the united states.United states the US, which occupied puerto rico in 1898 after the spanish-american war, granted puerto ricans citizenship about two decades before rodriguez’s birth. Still, his family members and neighbors couldn’t elect their own governor until 1948. Even today, puerto ricans, while subject to US laws and given US aid, can’t vote for president or elect full, voting members of congress.

Some of rodriguez’s older brothers enlisted in the US military (one lost part of his hand in the korean war, according to julia rodriguez) and, as a teenager, natalio rodriguez tried to do the same. Unable to join the service because of a heart arrhythmia, according to his wife, he found other ways to follow in their footsteps. After one brother moved to new york — bringing home exotic northeastern foods like cod, cherries and white grapes to a family that grew avocado, grapefruit and oranges — rodriguez decided, after high school, to move there, too. He would become a big man like his dad — 5-foot-9 and 300 pounds — and not averse to physical labor.Sleep apnea but he began to resent helping in the sugar fields. Maunabo was, and is, desperately poor. (fifty-six percent live below the poverty line, according to the US census bureau). Some of his relatives still plowed up their fields with bulls tied to oxcarts. The brother who moved away seemed so much happier, and so much richer. In the united states, rodriguez thought, he’d have a better life, too.

Time hasn’t just stopped in this town, which is at the southeast corner of puerto rico, near where maria delivered its first punches. After the storm, it’s almost irrelevant. On this day, march 9, lafuente tells me exactly 0% of the area’s 11,500 residents have been reconnected to the electric grid — the same as the day hurricane maria struck. Between 35% and 50% of residents do have electricity, he said, from three emergency generators installed on december 23 by the US government. But those generators are prone to failure, he said, and don’t reach mountain communities. (the army corps said the alleged "failures" result from generator switch-overs, not from problems with the equipment.Puerto rico the puerto rican power authority — PREPA — told CNN 37% of customers in maunabo had power as of march 13, but did not specify the source of that electricity.)

The hospital had to be relocated to another municipal building, which most recently had been home to emergency management workers and police. Those officers and workers, in turn, had to move into a public school that closed before the storm. The hospital still has a sign that says "emergencia 24 horas," indicating the emergency room never closes. The reconfigured hospital, however, opens at 7 a.M. And closes at 11 p.M. Many of those who require emergency assistance earlier or later than that have to drive through an unlit mountain tunnel — it feels like something out of "the walking dead" — to seek medical help.

We stop by the lighthouse, perhaps the most iconic site in maunabo, to find that its searchlight and glass have been shattered by maria. The coast guard hadn’t used it since the 1990s, anyway, according to wanda marín rivera, board president of the town’s cultural center.Hurricane maria but lafuente and others had hoped tourism might revive the town, with the lighthouse as a destination, since sugar cane, plantains and crab fishing haven’t been providing stable work. (maunabo became known as a hub for crab fishing. Crab images are stamped into the sidewalks and painted on walls; a crab statue sits in front of the baseball stadium, which was heavily damaged, and a smaller one perches on the mayor’s desk).

The power was out. Water, too. Food was scarce. For several days, the winding, steep-pitched road to their mountain home was blocked, lourdes said. It was a week before she was able to wait in hourslong lines for gasoline and get her car to a hill in a neighboring city, caguas, where she could call their many relatives on the mainland to say they had outlasted the hurricane. Communications systems in maunabo remained essentially inoperable for months, she told me. Island-wide, according to puerto rico government data, only 25% of cell towers were functional by october 20.Sleep apnea

It was in these isolated circumstances that natalio rodriguez’s medical conditions began to worsen. The labored breathing was especially troubling for his wife and daughter. The sleep apnea machine he used at night to get oxygen into his lungs wasn’t working without electricity. That meant he and his wife could not rest, much less sleep. He paced the house at night and walked the neighborhood by day. In desperation, the family made cardboard fans for him to use to try to move air around his face. No one thought it would help him breathe, really, but it was something.

In november, I put together a CNN team to survey the funeral homes in puerto rico. We were only able to reach about half, but those directors and other staff members told us they had seen at least 499 deaths they considered to be hurricane related, based primarily on their conversations with family members. We then documented the deaths of several uncounted people who died in the weeks after the hurricane, not only the day the storm hit.Hurricane maria they included an older man in cayey who died in a fire set by a lantern he wouldn’t have been using if he’d had electricity; a man in canóvanas who committed suicide in the storm’s aftermath; and a woman in corozal who lacked access to medical treatment. (two deaths we highlighted were later added to the puerto rico government’s list of official hurricane-related deaths).

He wanted to go everywhere that day, see everything. He carried his cane with him while visiting his sister, a nun, in ponce, a city on the south coast. But he kept it in his elbow crease — more ornament than crutch. At an ice cream shop, he pretended to be a clueless american tourist — using affected spanish, asking to see tourist attractions on the other side of the island. The store’s workers laughed when he broke the gag, lourdes rodriguez said. He ordered his favorite flavor: passion fruit with pineapple. That night, they ate seafood at a restaurant near the beach.Sleep apnea

As of march 15, FEMA had spent $1.1 billion in puerto rico; $1.6 billion in texas; and $993 million in florida for individual assistance following the fall 2017 hurricanes. "That’s the initial, quickest payment to individual citizens for immediate needs, but the real cost is in long-term recovery dollars for infrastructure projects, like buildings, roads and other public facilities," which is not included in those figures, said chris currie, director of emergency management issues at the US government accountability office.

She doesn’t see the united states granting puerto rico full rights as the 51st state, a move that likely would require the approval of congress. Remember, she said, this storm follows a massive debt crisis in which the island’s government declared bankruptcy. What does puerto rico have to offer the united states now? A fiscal oversight board, appointed by the US president, is steering austerity measures.United states meanwhile, puerto ricans have been taught, generation after generation, she said, to believe that they cannot survive without the help of a colonial power.