A year after deadly Maria, Puerto Rico still struggles with aftermath


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Clapping and raising their hands to the sky, hundreds of people clad in white gathered at an 18th-century fort in the Puerto Rican capital on Thursday to remember the thousands who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria as the us territory struggles to recover one year after the Category 4 storm hit.

After a commissioned study, the government of the USA island attributed an estimated 2,975 deaths to the Category 4 storm, which also caused an estimated $100 billion in damage, including destroying 75 percent of the island's transmission lines.

For months, the US government contended that the official death toll from the hurricane and the three months afterward was 64.

The work was part of the CUNY Service Corps - Puerto Rico effort and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. "They needed our help and still need help".

Even before the Category-4 storm hit, Puerto Rico was financially bankrupt with $120 billion in debt and pension liabilities it can not pay.

Nivia Rodriguez, a 60-year-old retiree whose uncle died a week after the storm, said she grew upset after watching videos of rescue crews in North Carolina when Hurricane Florence hit.

And yet, aside from Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's advocacy for the island (though, fierce), the FCC has done very little to aid or draw awareness to the slow recovery in Puerto Rico - particularly for the disconnected reality that still exists for many Puertoriqueños.

It's been one year since one of the strongest hurricanes made landfall on a US territory. Protests were planned in San Juan and elsewhere, as well as a funeral procession.

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"To see the island of enchantment was a deep and painful experience", he said.

More than 200,000 people left the island after the storm, mostly to the USA mainland, according to government data.

In reality, the Commission has done much less for Puerto Rico post-hurricane Maria than past Commissions (both Republican-led and Democrat-led) have taken.

Cruz-Torres added those in the coastal areas, fishermen in particular, were among the hardest hit because of the gear and boats they lost.

"The path forward is challenging and will be measured not in months, but really in years", Carson said. It's also important to note that the devastation from Hurricane Maria, even one year later, is unprecedented.

"It's too much", she said. Other residents, especially poorer people, say their lives remain in turmoil as a result of the storm, with relief agencies reporting that more people are requesting food and other staples than before Maria hit.

Hispanic Federation President Jose Calderon said that in its response to Hurricane Maria a year ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency "failed miserably, we need to call it what it is".