The adequate response to mighty Hurricane Irma, with a destructive capacity never seen before in the Caribbean, has been an important demonstration of what we can do when we prepare.
After the hurricane, Puerto Rico is ready with equal vigor for the reconstruction, with the great satisfaction of having clearly demonstrated solidarity, civility and responsibility before, during and after the hurricane, which center moved about 50 miles northwest of San Juan towards the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Fortunately, Hurricane Irma did not make landfall so it was not such a severe rain event as Harvey was in Texas, and winds on the Island did not reach the deadly 185-mile-per-hour speed recorded in the vortex. However, there were severe damages in homes and other structures, in always vulnerable agriculture and in our weakened infrastructure.
We must undertake the moment as an opportunity for the reconstruction of our beloved Island. We have showed what we can achieve when we all work together with unity of purpose. And that is the basis for the future.
Leadership of Governor Ricardo Rosselló and the commendable work of central government officials, as well as mayors and their hard working teams anticipating the devastation that a category five hurricane can cause to housing, obsolete infrastructure and, above all, to the safety and life of our people has to be recognized in this effort.
Certainly, President Donald Trump´s approval to the request for declaration of disaster area -advanced by the governor prior to Irma´s passage - has been really helpful for the prompt intervention of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other entities to mitigate damages. Support and accurate performance of managers and members of the federal agencies will be crucial in the reparations and other tasks necessary for the recovery, at a time when the liquidity crisis of the government affects the available resources to attend the generalized emergency.
The first figures indicate 6,000 refugees, who responsibly sought shelter to protect themselves from flooding in coastal or high-risk communities. The drama of those living in unsafe areas deserves the attention of authorities in order to seek definitive relocations. The major tragedy was three unfortunate deaths in incidents related, indirectly, to the hurricane.
Assistance to families whose homes are damaged or roofless -which translates into total loss-, and rehabilitation of water and electricity supply systems are vital for the recovery effort.
68% of users of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) lost power as soon as the first winds blew. That is the result of the fragility of the system, which rehabilitation must be a priority in the distribution of resources of emergency. Despite the precautions taken by the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority (PRASA), especially equipment of generators to keep their facilities in operation, resulted in a lower number of users without water, this other system also claims major repairs and updates.
If these vulnerable systems did not collapse, it was because of the intense and effective work of many workers who once again risked their lives to maintain the services. We congratulate all of them for their example of sacrifice and responsibility.
The opportunity, however, is favorable to promptly activate title V of PROMESA and include our weakened infrastructure among critical projects to be routed with federal loans and allocations following a disaster, which calls for a joint effort of cooperation between the government and the Board.
People have shown maturity to face the impact of the hurricane. Puerto Rico is in the path of hurricanes and rising temperatures in the Atlantic anticipate the formation of new powerful cyclones. We are moving forward with patience, determination and courage and we will keep moving steadfastly until we rebuild and revitalize Puerto Rico.
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