Wrap-up of damages in P.R. caused by Hurricane Irma
Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the September 14 print edition of Caribbean Business.
SAN JUAN — While Puerto Rico was spared much of Hurricane Irma’s destruction, the island still sustained heavy damages as the Category 5 storm cut a path of destruction in the Caribbean on its way to Florida, with at least 37 reported deaths in the region. Three of those storm-related deaths were in Puerto Rico. Seven rivers on the island were running at flood levels during Irma’s passage north of Puerto Rico, and as much as 8 inches of rain fell in some parts of the island. Waves of up to 30 feet were reported around San Juan at the height of the storm.
- Gov. Ricardo Rosselló requested the federal government declare Vieques and Culebra as disaster areas, while up to 30 municipalities in total were expected to be included in the request. The hardest-hit areas in Puerto Rico were in the north, northeast and mountain regions. Late last week, the governor said data on damages were still in the preliminary stages, so total damages had yet to be quantified.
- In Culebra, Irma destroyed at least 30 houses and caused damage to the infrastructure of another 30. The island-municipality was completely cut off from communications for several hours, as the only telecommunications tower in Culebra was damaged.
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina stopped operating for hours starting Wednesday, Sept. 6, and after restarting operations Thursday, Sept. 7, it was only able to return to normal on Saturday, Sept. 9.
- Between 25% and 30% of plantain, banana, papaya and coffee crops in Puerto Rico were damaged by Hurricane Irma’s winds, which represents $30.6 million in losses for farmers.
- About 6,200 people and 500 pets were sheltered in the 460 shelters around the island since Sept. 6. By Sept. 8, about 173 refugees remained in shelters, the majority of them in Canóvanas, San Juan and Culebra.
- 1.1 million Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) clients, out of a total 1.5 million customers islandwide, lost electric power on Wednesday afternoon. On Friday, 865,000 remained without power and, as of Monday, Sept. 11, the number had dropped to 371,000 customers still without power.
- The P.R. Health Department reported about 42% of local hospitals were using generators due to a lack of electricity.
- At least 362,000 Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority clients were left without water, mostly because of the lack of power at filtration plants. Five days after the passage of Irma, that number was at 62,000 customers without water, most of them in the San Juan area.
- On the roads, at least 616 incidents were reported, most involving fallen trees. Some 72 roads were blocked with debris and, as of Sept. 8, 13 were still unattended. At least six landslides were reported.
- About 781 of the 1,600 telecommunications towers around the island ceased operating, most of them due to lack of electric power.
- Public school students spent four days without classes, while public employees did not work for three-and-a-half days.
- The governor decreed three days without the 11.5% sales & use tax—from Sept. 8 to Sept. 10—because thousands of people “lost” the food they had in their fridges due to the lack of power.
- In Carolina, 11 of the 12 lifeguard towers at the public beach were destroyed, while 90% of the trees and park structures were damaged.