Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Looking Beyond Fiona

By on October 3, 2022

Once again, Puerto Rico made headline news around the world – the result of another catastrophe. This time, it was about the impact of Fiona, and what may turn out to be historic rainfall. Certainly, we need to look beyond the present situation to leverage this attention in favor of our people and our future.

Almost to the exact date of the fifth anniversary of when Hurricane María made landfall on September 20, 2017, we are again facing the task of providing relief, recovery and reconstruction from another hurricane. This should not surprise us; it is part of the extreme weather patterns generated by global climate change. It is not a departure from the many recent disasters that have struck California, the heartland, and countries such as Pakistan, which is facing the effects of what appears a biblical deluge made worse by a government that has been unable to respond to the cataclysm. Now it’s Florida’s turn.

Back in Puerto Rico this time around, we need to focus on the strengths we have developed. In contrast with 2017, we do not need basic supplies, FEMA has four warehouses stacked full. We also have supplies of medication, and President Biden announced that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Fiona for the next 30 days.

Another significant difference is that today, the government has liquidity and millions of dollars in an emergency fund, part of the fiscal restructuring done by the Financial Oversight and Management Board. In 2017, we had neither.

Already, we know that power restoration will be a question of days, not a matter of months. To be fair, María pummeled transmission and distribution lines, and caused widespread catastrophic losses, whereas Fiona’s devastation has
been more regional.

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