Months After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Still Struggling

The new death toll from the worst natural disaster to affect the island is a reminder of the longest blackout in U.S. history.

Nearly a year after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, the island’s governor, raised the storm’s official death toll from 64 to 2,975. The figure comes from a new study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Rosselló commissioned the study and acknowledged this week that he made mistakes. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the federal government did a “fantastic job” in responding to the storm.

But in February, Yamary Morales Torres, 41, told me, “The fishermen here are suffering,” as she stood in her yard overlooking the pounding surf on Puerto Rico’s southeastern coast. Setting out before daybreak, Yamary and 14 other fishermen in her neighborhood have to prepare their boats and fishing gear in the dark. In addition, “there’s no place to refrigerate the fish we catch, so we need to sell them immediately.”

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck land not far from Playa El Negro in Yabucoa, where Yamary and her extended family live. The storm knocked out power to the entire island, a United States territory that is home to 3.3 million citizens. Five months later this neighborhood of only 14 homes—all damaged and flooded by the storm—still had no electricity and no sense of when it would be restored.

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