Puerto Rico be­gins re­build­ing

Fire­fight­ers re­move trees, use bull­doz­ers to lift top­pled con­crete light posts

Truro Daily News - - WORLD -

Res­cuers fanned out to reach stunned vic­tims Thurs­day af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria rav­aged Puerto Rico, knock­ing out elec­tric­ity to the en­tire is­land and trig­ger­ing land­slides and floods.

The ex­tent of the dam­age is un­known given that dozens of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties re­mained iso­lated and with­out com­mu­ni­ca­tion af­ter Maria hit the is­land Wed­nes­day morn­ing as a Cat­e­gory 4 storm with 155 m.p.h. winds, the strong­est hur­ri­cane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years.

Up­rooted trees and wide­spread flood­ing blocked many high­ways and streets across the is­land, cre­at­ing a maze that forced driv­ers to go against traf­fic and past po­lice cars that used loud­speak­ers to warn peo­ple they must re­spect a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. cur­few im­posed by the gover­nor to en­sure ev­ery­one’s safety.

“This is going to be a his­toric event for Puerto Rico,” said Ab­ner Gomez, the is­land’s emer­gency man­age­ment di­rec­tor.

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump ap­proved a fed­eral dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion for Puerto Rico.

Pre­vi­ously a Cat­e­gory 5 with 281 km/h winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strong­est storm to make land­fall in the U.S., based on its central pres­sure.

It was even stronger than Hur­ri­cane Irma when that storm roared into the Florida Keys ear­lier this month.

In the cap­i­tal of San Juan, tow­er­ing eu­ca­lyp­tus trees fell nearly ev­ery other block over a main road dot­ted with pop­u­lar bars, restau­rants and cof­fee shops, some of which were dam­aged.

Out­side a nearby apart­ment build­ing, 40-year-old tourism com­pany op­er­a­tor Adrian Pacheco re­counted how he spent eight hours in a stair­well hud­dled with 100 other res­i­dents when

the hur­ri­cane ripped the storm shut­ters off his build­ing and dec­i­mated three bal­conies.

“I think peo­ple didn’t ex­pect the storm to reach the point that it did,” he said. “Since Irma never re­ally hap­pened, they thought Maria would be the same.”

Hur­ri­cane Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, leav­ing more than one mil­lion peo­ple with­out power but caus­ing no deaths or wide­spread dam­age like it did on nearby is­lands. Maria, how­ever, blew out win­dows at some hos­pi­tals and po­lice sta­tions, turned some streets into roar­ing rivers and de­stroyed hun­dreds of homes across Puerto Rico, in­clud­ing 80 per cent of houses in a small fish­ing com­mu­nity near the San Juan Bay, which unleashed a storm surge of more than four feet.

“Months and months and months and months are going to

pass be­fore we can re­cover from this,” Felix Del­gado, mayor of the north­ern coastal city of Catano, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The sound of chain saws be­gan to fill the si­lence that spread across San Juan late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon as fire­fight­ers be­gan to re­move trees and used small bull­doz­ers to lift top­pled con­crete light posts. Some neigh­bours pitched in to help clear the smaller branches, in­clud­ing Shawn Zim­mer­man, a 27-year-old stu­dent from Lewis­town, Penn., who moved to Puerto Rico nearly two years ago.

“The storm didn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s the dev­as­ta­tion. I get goose­bumps. It’s going to take us a long time.”

Maria has caused at least 10 deaths across the Caribbean, in­clud­ing seven in the hard-hit is­land of Do­minica and two in

the French Caribbean ter­ri­tory of Guade­loupe. Puerto Rico’s gover­nor told CNN one man died af­ter be­ing hit by fly­ing de­bris. No fur­ther de­tails were avail­able, and of­fi­cials could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment.

Do­minica Tourism Min­is­ter Robert Tonge de­scribed his badly dam­aged coun­try three days af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria made land­fall in the eastern Caribbean is­land.

An up­date from him said the cap­i­tal of Roseau still had se­vere flood­ing and there was heavy dam­age through­out the city. The hospi­tal and a com­mu­nity cen­tre both lost roofs.

One of two air­ports serv­ing the coun­try was in­op­er­a­ble while the other was ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional in the com­ing days. An es­ti­mated 95 per cent of the roofs were blown off in some towns, in­clud­ing Ma­haut and Portsmouth.

AP PHOTO

A fam­ily helps clean the road af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria hit the eastern re­gion of the is­land in Hu­macao, Puerto Rico. The strong­est hur­ri­cane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years de­stroyed hun­dreds of homes, knocked out power across the en­tire is­land...

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