SAN JUAN, PR – Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico directly in nearly a century, ravaged the island Wednesday, eliminating all electricity, devouring cities with hot flashes and mudslides and compounding the already considerable shortage of residents here.
Less than two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma inflicted on the island a kick, killing at least three people and leaving nearly 70 percent of households without power. This storm, which landed at 6 am as a category 4 hurricane, pulled out the entire power grid of the island, and added to the problems of a republic that was moaning under the weight of a prolonged debt and a bankruptcy crisis.
Beyond the immediate wind damage up to 155 miles per hour, continuous rains flood coastal communities as well as neighborhoods in the central mountainous areas of the island, which is full rivers and water courses. One person was reported dead, although the power failure severely cut off communication with some of the worst affected areas.
Residents woke up Wednesday to the clamor of building wind gusts, with the memory of hurricane Irma still fresh. In the afternoon, the whole island had lost electricity.
"There was no such thing," said Ramón Lopez, a military veteran who held tears outside his neighborhood in Guaynabo, on the north coast near San Juan, the capital. "That was the fury. It did not stop."
Such was the feeling across the island while the barrage of howling gusts and driving rain did not stop. ceased not from early morning till evening.
Francisco Ramirez, 23, stood the storm in the convenience store of a gas station in Guaynabo. As a security guard at the station, it was scheduled for 8 pm. Change Tuesday, hours before Maria hits. He sat behind a counter while the storm was making air and the water slipped under the doors. The winds detached the aluminum roofing per room throughout the night and hit several gas pumps.
"That felt like a tornado, as if the roof was going to unfold," said Ramirez.
Thousands of residents fled the winds and rained and sank into stronger buildings. More than 500 shelters were opened in Puerto Rico, but Governor Ricardo Rosselló said he could not guarantee the temperament of these structures.
About 600 people took refuge in one of the largest shelters, the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan. Witnesses testified that the roof of the arena had disappeared and that the shelter lacked electricity and running water.
"It looks ugly, ugly, ugly here," Shania Vargas, Carolina resident who had refugee Arena, said in a telephone interview.
Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan remained sheltered from the residents in the wake of the hurricane. She told people that there had been widespread flooding in the city and said in a video posted on Twitter that "as badly as we are we are better than we are. any other place ".
Elsewhere in the capital, tree trunks and electricity poles had burst like twigs, obstructing the highways and winding roads of the mountain. If an outlet was not blocked by the foliage, it was flooded. Power lines were pouring into the high winds. The Roosevelt Commercial Avenue had water up to the waist.
Metal barriers in rich neighborhoods like Caparra had been crumpled like cardboard, while improvised paths leading to wooden houses in the barrios of Guaynabo had been rendered impassable by the fallen trees.
Smaller towns and more rural areas, many wooden houses with zinc roofs, were hard to reach after the storm, but widespread damage has been reported. Mayor Félix Delgado de Cataño, on the north coast, told a San Juan radio station that the storm had destroyed 80 percent of the houses in the Juana Matos neighborhood, which had been evacuated.
Photos and videos published on the social theme The media showed severe flooding in the central areas of the island. The rivers overflowed and their waters rushed into the narrow streets, taking houses with them.
Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico had very fragile energy systems and that electricity had to remain very long.
Much of Puerto Rico lost power after Hurricane Irma passed just north this month, exposing the island's fallen infrastructure and serious challenges facing it in the midst of a worsening economic crisis. Electrical power, produced by Puerto Rico's public electricity authority, or Prepa, has long been a headache for residents, who have come to be wary of the sparkly grid even in normal conditions.
Prepa's efforts to repair lines and restore power after Irma will almost certainly have been canceled by Maria, and the question of how a sovereign debt government will pay for complete repairs is sure to confuse its leaders long after the storm dissipates.
Drinking water was also affected by the storm, but the authorities could not yet say how much damage had been done. Elí Díaz Atienza, president of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, said that the agency 's communication systems had decreased and he could not verify the factories and offices.
Barriers of the dam of La Plata in Bayamón and the dam of Carraízo in Trujillo Alto, both on the north coast, was opened to avoid the floods in the neighboring zones. The authority had begun emptying the reservoirs several days ago in anticipation of heavy rain
. Rosselló said on Twitter that he had asked President Trump to declare a disaster zone in Puerto Rico. Mr. Trump declared an emergency in the Commonwealth on Monday and commissioned federal assistance in hurricane response. But a disaster statement would increase this aid.
Sir. Trump called the hurricane "a big one" at a meeting in New York with King Abdullah II of Jordan. "I've never seen winds like this." Puerto Rico, you're watching what's going on out there. "It's just one after the other, "he said.
Other islands hit by hurricane Maria before they landed in Puerto Rico were still struggling to regroup. Seven deaths have been confirmed on Dominica, where the hurricane hit Tuesday, and tolls are expected to rise, according to Hartley Henry, adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. The dwelling was severely damaged and all public buildings were used as shelters.
On Puerto Rico, even the concrete walls of some San Juan condominiums have been destroyed, leaving the living rooms and kitchens exposed. The outdoor basketball courts were swimming pools. The traffic lights had been knocked down and were now part of the obstacle roads. Zinc roof structures were destroyed, as were windows and glass doors.
"This looks like a different country," said Marimar de la Cruz, educational consultant, seeing the destruction in Hato Rey, San Juan neighborhood
. Earlier on Wednesday, Rosselló said the island had updated its building codes in 2011. Recent structures have been built to withstand the storms, but many traditional dwellings, said the governor, Had no chance "
Yet, Mr. Rosselló offered words of hope.
"There is no hurricane stronger than the people of Puerto Rico," he said. "And immediately after that is done, we will stand up."
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