In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona that hit Puerto Rico, communities are under water, bridges and roads are destroyed, and the homes of many residents are unlivable. Early numbers indicate a tough road ahead as residents attempt to recover.
It will take some time before experts fully understand the extent of the damage caused by Fiona, according to Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“What we can be sure of, looking at some of these first images coming in, is going to be very, very meaningful,” she said.
Here are the latest numbers:
1. Parts of Puerto Rico received over 30 inches of rain
The island was inundated with massive amounts of rain, according to data from the National Hurricane Center.
Southern Puerto Rico was affected 12 to 20 inches. Some areas received a maximum of nearly 3 feet of rain during the storm. Residents of northern Puerto Rico saw four to 12 inches of precipitation, with some areas receiving a maximum of 20 inches, according to the data. In the days following the storm, communities still received several inches of rain and had to deal with significant flooding.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency on the island on Wednesday due to the impact of Fiona’s flooding.
This follows President Biden’s declaration of disaster.
2. Dozens of people must be rescued by the National Guard
From In the hard-hit municipality of Cayey on Monday, the Puerto Rico National Guard rescued 21 elderly and bedridden people from a nursing home. Landslides threatened the structure of the house and the safety of residents, according to the National Guard. A group of infantry from the municipality of Mayagüez rescued 59 people from a flooded community. This includes two bedridden elderly people and 13 pets.
These are just in areas where lifeguards can reach.
“We haven’t had a damage assessment yet where people have been able to go to more remote areas that have been completely cut off to really start to get a sense of the extent of the damage,” Cleetus told NPR. .
Puerto Rican emergency management officials told The Associated Press that several municipalities are still cut off to help days after the storm, and the extent to which residents were affected is unknown.
3. More than 900,000 people are still without electricity
Photo by AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Much of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, particularly the island’s power grid, still faces challenges that were exacerbated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. It took weeks, if not months, to restore power. common in some areas. For example, a Puerto Rican reporter told NPR that he lived without electricity for a year. And it remained unreliable years later.
PowerOutage.us, which tracks service disruptions, says around 928,000 households are in the dark Friday morning – around five days after Fiona’s hit.
4. Hundreds of thousands of people are still without water
Photo by AFP/AFP via Getty Images
On Friday, government data showed that more than 358,000 customers (about 27%) were still without water service.
At one point this week, the Puerto Rico Water and Sewer Authority reported that more than 760,000 customers either had no water service or faced significant interruptions.
5. Puerto Rico’s economy could take a multi-billion dollar hit
Cleetus believes that when the experts are able to correctly calculate the complete destruction of Fiona, they will find a multi-billion dollar economic catastrophe.
Given Fiona’s strength and longevity, the economic impact on Puerto Rico will not be of the same magnitude as Hurricane Maria, which was Category 4 when it made landfall there. Maria caused around 3,000 deaths and cost over $100 billion in damage. For comparison, Fiona was a Category 1 hurricane when it hit the island. (It has since upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda.)
The problem is that Fiona arrived in Puerto Rico when she hadn’t yet recovered properly from the damage caused by Maria, Cleetus said. The economic losses from this storm will be compounded by the still-existing problems on the island that were made worse by Maria, she added.
“Sometimes we tend to focus on storms when they’re in the news, and you think of them as a single event,” she said. “But it’s the cumulative effect of these events that is really pernicious for communities.”