‘How are we not included?’: Rural Puerto Ricans scramble for help after hurricane | Puerto Rico

Six days after Hurricane Fiona Puerto RicoAlexiz and Roberto Núñez still don’t know where their next meal will come from.

The couple, whose house in Arecibo was flooded during the storm, relies on a neighbor’s kitchen and some government-issued canned goods to survive.

Nunez woke up to a flooded home on the day of the storm, getting to her feet only to find the water up to her waist.

She and her husband saw the rescuers from afar and screamed until they were saved. They were later taken to a shelter and then stayed with her daughter for two days, where the power and water have not yet returned.

“I am grateful to be alive,” Alexiz said. “My throat hurts so much from screaming.”

uncertainty about food, drinking water and power restoration it is more serious in areas far from the capital of the island, San Juan.

Residents in the southern and western parts of the island of 3.3 million complain of feeling ignored in efforts to return public services to their homes. Approximately 63% of 1.47 million customers remained friday without lightwhile more than 358,000 clients remained without water.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved a disaster statement for Puerto Rico, granting access to individual emergency funds and public assistance for residents affected by the hurricane.

To the people of Puerto Rico who are still recovering from Hurricane Maria 5 years later:

We are with you now and in the future.
And we will get through it together.

— President Biden (@POTUS) September 23, 2022

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) makes individual assistance available to only 55 of the 78 municipalities.

Cabo Rojo, a municipality in southern Puerto Rico that was heavily affected by the storm, was not included in the list.

In addition to the hurricane, the southwest coast of the island is still suffering damage from the major earthquakes of 2020. The aid disbursement was delayed after the pandemic began shortly after. Guánica, Lajas and Arecibo, where the Núñezes are from, were also excluded from the list.

Loíza, a town in the northeast of the island that also suffered major floods, was not included among the towns that could be granted individual emergency funds. Julia Nazario Fuentes expressed her frustration on social media and reminded people that some communities are still underwater.

“There are still people who cannot leave their homes,” said Nazario Fuentes in a cheep Thursday. “In addition, they are leaving out the municipalities that suffered damage. Unacceptable!”

satelite images from the space released on Thursday they show the metropolitan area of ​​Puerto Rico with the lights on, while much of the island is without electricity.

Some people on social media are calling the efforts to restore power “metrocentric”.

according to a report published this week by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, FEMA discriminated against people who were disabled, low-income, and did not speak English.

The document indicates that after the category 5 hurricane hit the island, Fema received more than 1.1 million applications for housing assistance in Puerto Rico, but rejected 60% due to problems with title documentation. The commission emphasized that there are no laws in Puerto Rico that require owners to register their properties.

Five years later, some of the same problems the US territory faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria are having an impact after Category 1 Hurricane Fiona hit the island last Sunday.

People are dying in the wake of the latest storm. A 70-year-old man in Arecibo died after his emergency generator burst on Monday. A woman in San Sebastian was Burned He died Tuesday after a lit candle started a fire in his home.

Diesel, which powers many generators, including in supermarkets, is also hard to come by, with companies struggling to operate amid long lines at gas stations and low supply.

A fuel terminal in Yabucoa that supplies gasoline and other fuels throughout Puerto Rico was restored Thursdayand the government hopes that fuel distribution will be normalized.

“We have food and water for now, but the situation could get worse if power doesn’t return soon or if we don’t have diesel,” said Manuel Reyes Alfonso, executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Marketing. and distribution of the food industry, on Friday.

The Arecibo couple said they weren’t even going to try to go to the supermarket because they expected long lines and limited supplies. They lost their refrigerator during the flood and find it almost useless to buy produce if they can’t keep it refrigerated.

The Núñezes have removed all the debris from their home and slept on the floor Thursday night.

Due to the flooding, a representative from the Department of Housing told the couple that their house did not pass inspection and that they should start looking for a new home. They had hoped to receive assistance from Fema, but learned Thursday that Arecibo residents are not included among those entitled to individual assistance, they said.

“As a person who lost everything, affected by the hurricane, how is it possible that we are not included?” Alexis said. “Many people in Arecibo lost everything, I’m not the only one.”

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