The Response to Hurricane Maria: A Year On

The Response to Hurricane Maria: A Year On

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of last year it brought a tremendous amount of damage and destruction to not just the island but to its population as well. When the storm hit, many Puerto Ricans were helpless to the effects of it, homes and livelihoods completely destroyed by the storm. 

Government response to this catastrophe was coupled with the cooperation of the federal agencies in the immediate aftermath of the storm, however, too many this response was not as successful as it should have been. The words of reassurance by President Trump, stating his administration was doing a ‘good job’, as well as his visit to the island, left many Puerto Ricans unsatisfied as his words seemed to contradict the actions of the government. The lack of planning from local, federal and government agencies has been said to have caused more loss of life and hardship for many Puerto Ricans. It was the initial lack of planning and response to this tragedy that has further caused many to have to go days and weeks without access to power, clean water, food and medication. Since, $25 billion in aid has been allocated to Puerto Rico from the US government, alleviating the lives of many Puerto Ricans who now have the chance to rebuild their homes. 

Recently, President Trump has downplayed the reported death toll from researchers and scientists at George Washington University, estimate that 2,975 deaths were caused by the storm. Trump blames the Democrats and the news media for creating “fake news” as he does not believe this report to be true. In fact, Trump has continued to assert that only 16 people died in the storm and that officials were adding people who died of “old age” onto the official death count. This despite local Puerto Rican media, aid workers and the population themselves stating that considerably more than 16 people died. 

What perhaps is even more disturbing is Paul Ryan’s defence of this fake news incident, not only did he refuse to dispute the death toll but he also said of the Hurricane “ that’s really no one’s fault. It’s just what happened.” This laissez-faire attitude towards life and death is deeply disturbing, to say the least.  

By failing to recognize the enormous damage and suffering that many Puerto Ricans had due to ineffective planning and the slow initial response, President Trump is not helping them move past the horror and disaster of Hurricane Maria. Instead, he seems insistent on praising himself and his administration for the job they have done in rebuilding and helping Puerto Rico since. Yet, Puerto Rico is still rebuilding. For example, it was only in August this year (eleven months after the hurricane originally hit) that power was fully restored to the nation.

Trump’s statement of love for Puerto Rico, shows the need for actions rather than words. There needs to be a better mechanism to cope with the extensive damage surrounding such calamities. Let Puerto Rico be a lesson for future governments – it is the job of the government to ensure the safety of its citizens. We must do better. 

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