Puerto Rico gov’t extends until Sunday curfew, dry law
At the moment, there are six deaths confirmed in Puerto Rico by the passage of Hurricane Maria, according to government figures Friday afternoon. The island is still in the dark and has severe problems with water and telecommunications services.
The number of refugees is currently estimated at roughly 15,000, although the exact figure is difficult to determine because of a lack of communication with several towns on the island.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced Friday that a curfew and dry law will be extended until Sunday, Sept. 24, while he urged citizens to stay in their homes and shelters to allow for the rescue and cleaning efforts.
A curfew has been in place since Thursday, between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am, while businesses have been prohibited from dispensing alcoholic beverages under penalty of fines and arrests in both cases.
At the first press conference after the event and accompanied by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Puerto Rican Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Rosselló indicated that all “vulnerable” structures throughout the island were completely or partially damaged. Yet the government still lacks estimates on the damage caused by the category 4 hurricane, the worst disaster Puerto Rico has faced in over a century.
Rosselló, moreover, stressed that the emergency is still not over. For instance, he announced the immediate evacuation of several areas in Quebradillas, Isabela and San Sebastián, amid the imminent rupture of the Guajataca Dam. About 70,000 people are currently in danger in these three northwestern towns.
The island’s Convention Center, in the Miramar neighborhood in San Juan, will serve as the government’s Emergency Operations Center, as the State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management building in Caguas suffered damage and lost communication during the event.
Evaluating damage to ports
On the other hand, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) partially began operations on Friday, and will continue to operate in a limited fashion during the next days. Only 10 inbound/outbound domestic flights will be serviced until Sunday, while
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González reported that local and federal authorities evaluate the state of ports in San Juan, Fajardo, Culebra, Vieques and Yabucoa to begin the transfer of supplies.
Gonzalez estimated that a hundred boats sank because of the tides left by Hurricane María, so authorities must conduct an assessment with divers to determine if ships could dock at these ports.
The president of the local Telecommunications Regulatory Board, Sandra Torres, reported that, at the moment, only 15% of the 1,600 telecommunications towers are in operation, in addition to thousands of cables on the ground.
When asked about the landing site of a critical fiber-optic cable, Torres admitted the building in Isla Verde suffered flooding, affecting almost 85% of this infrastructure.
She further stressed that it will take time to restore systems across the island. Gov. Rosselló acknowledged that he has yet to communicate or receive information about several towns in the central, southeast and west regions of the island.