Hurricane María death toll in Puerto Rico increased to 43
SAN JUAN – The Secretary of Public Affairs and Public Policy, Ramón Rosario, said Tuesday that the number of confirmed deaths associated with the passage of Hurricane María over Puerto Rico increased from 39 to 43.
Among the last four deaths to be added to the list is a patient from Aguadilla who had an infection and required an operation that could not be performed as a result of the emergency. His condition worsened, which led to his death.
Similar cases are believed to have occurred in other hospitals on the island, as most of the hospitals remained inoperative hours after the hurricane 20 days ago because Puerto Rico’s electric power and telecommunications systems collapsed.
Rosario said the three other certified deaths were due to accidents directly related to the rain and wind associated with the worst storm to hit the island in the past 80 years.
One person died in San Germán when removing debris from a road, another fell from a roof in Lajas and a person died when driving off a cliff due to avoiding damaged road section.
“These are incidents that occurred after María and we can associate them directly or indirectly to the phenomenon,” the official said in a press conference at the Convention Center in Miramar, which has been serving as the government’s Emergency Operations Center after the hurricane devastated the island.
Trying to return to ‘normality’
The Public Affairs secretary said that to date, or 20 days after the hurricane, 860 of the 1,100 (78%) gas stations are open, as well as 394 of the 456 (86.4%) supermarkets and 749 pharmacies. Only 490 businesses are processing the Nutritional Assistance Program card.
About 400 fewer people than on Monday were still in shelters Tuesday, when the total stood at 6,067 people. One less shelter remains being used, leaving 113, where 124 pets have been counted.
Meanwhile, 75% of the island’s ports are open. Rosario indicated that the Port of Mayagüez is operational. He also dismissed there being any problems for handling cargo at certain ports.
As of Tuesday, 175 of the 313 bank branches are operating, some with limits to the amount of cash that can be withdrawn, and 145 cooperatives are open. In addition, there are 560 ATMs in operation.
The water service percentage rose to 63.75%, or 799,408 customers. The number of customers with whose electric power service has been restored stood at 16% Tuesday morning. The priority is to power Pan American Grain, Molinos de Puerto Rico and the 115-volt line that runs from Aguadilla to Isabela, he added.
Debris clean-up requested
The official took the opportunity to urge municipalities to continue cleaning up debris from the streets to avoid flooding. He indicated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will refund 100% of the cost for this type of work.
He added that the government provided support to the Municipality of San Juan by offering two brigades from the Transportation and Public Works Department and three from the National Guard to clean up debris, explaining that one of the reasons for the flooding Sunday in several areas of the capital was due to debris blocking water drainage.