Rosselló praised for crisis management during Hurricane Irma
Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the September 14 print edition of Caribbean Business.
SAN JUAN — Leaders from different political perspectives have acknowledged Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s steadfastness and effectiveness in managing the emergency last week following the passing of Hurricane Irma through the waters north of Puerto Rico, which resulted in 6,200 people seeking refuge in shelters, 1.1 million clients without electricity and another 362,000 customers without water.
For the governor’s adviser in communications & public policy, Rafael Cerame, the first executive showed “he knows what must be done by the government and much more in crisis situations.
“The temperament, the capacity and the organization of the governor has transcended and translated into a government that has responded effectively to this emergency,” said Cerame, who highlighted the governor’s effectiveness in saving lives during the hurricane.
Several political figures concurred with Cerame through social networks. Among them were Popular Democratic Party Rep. Manuel Natal, who wrote in his Twitter account: “My thanks to the governor and his team for the responsible and poised management of this emergency.”
Likewise, Sen. Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rican Independence Party highlighted Rosselló’s “serenity and moderation” during the emergency, as well as his “sense of responsibility and structured urgency” to avoid regrettable consequences. The senator went further and thanked the work of the island’s public servants, as well as the governor’s solidarity with other islands in the Lesser Antilles, who fared far worse from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
After the Category 5 hurricane skirted Puerto Rico, more than 100 people lost their homes and the municipalities of Vieques and Culebra were declared disaster areas by the federal government. In economic terms, Irma caused losses of more than $30.6 million in agriculture and another 20 municipalities are expected to be declared disaster zones due to the effects of the hurricane, which also hit other islands and places in the region, including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and Florida.
However, there were some who pointed out that the Puerto Rico government’s limitations, not in terms of communications, but in agency responses to reach the most affected areas after being hit by the strongest hurricane on record to have originated in the Atlantic.
For the director of the Senate Committee on Community Initiatives, Jorge Fernández Corto, although the governor’s communications response was positive, the government’s general response was not quick in some areas where the hurricane hit hardest.
“The government has been somewhat disorganized in terms of the service it has been giving. We know there are places where the presence of the government has not been felt, as in Loíza, partly in Vieques and in other areas,” Fernández Corto told Caribbean Business. Fernández Corto has been an adviser to figures from different political parties and currently works with independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot.
This government “disorganization” was also denounced by the president of the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym), Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo. The union leader said the work of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) brigades in restoring power to thousands of clients has been delayed because they start after 7:30 in the morning and not 6 a.m., as in previous years.
Nor has there been adequate management to bring food to the brigade workers so they do not waste time buying food or provide them with necessary materials to deal with the situation faster, the Utier leader charged.
“It has been total improvisation, especially the lack of communication, in Prepa only and exclusively. The recovery process [of electric power] is slower because of these interruptions,” said Figueroa Jaramillo, who, however, highlighted the hard work of Prepa employees in restoring the electric-power service to citizens.
P.R. ready to receive evacuees from Lesser Antilles
Meanwhile, La Fortaleza Chief of Staff William Villafañe said Puerto Rico is ready to receive more than 4,000 evacuees from the Lesser Antilles, especially from St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda.
As of last Monday, there were some 2,167 evacuees from various Caribbean islands in Puerto Rico, who joined the 70 Puerto Rican evacuees who the government aided because they had lost their homes.
He thanked local hotels and transportation providers for their collaboration in the process, as well as Puerto Rico residents and businesses who have sent aid to the neighboring islands.
“We are prepared to receive even more [than 4,000 evacuees]. We were prepared to have a more critical situation here in Puerto Rico,” Villafañe said.