Post-storm Puerto Rico: “still in emergency mode”

A customer to Puerto Rico can virtually instantly inform which route the wind blew when Hurricane Maria swept throughout the island at 155 miles an hour. Almost 50 days after the storm, the downed timber, phone poles and energy traces nonetheless level the best way.  


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Every day and evening in San Juan, there are blackouts. But having electrical energy in any respect is a privilege, since a lot of the island continues to be with out energy.

“At night, it really quiets down because it’s dark,” says 60 Minutes affiliate producer Jack Weingart. “The street lights are out, and most homes and businesses are also dark. So at night, you just hear this constant humming of the generators.”


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But turbines aren’t designed to run consistently for weeks on finish, so finally they break down. Then the backup turbines, now largely liable for powering a metropolis, fail.

Such is life in Puerto Rico 46 days after the storm.

Weingart, together with producers Graham Messick and Michael Karzis and affiliate producer Vanessa Fica, not too long ago traveled to Puerto Rico with correspondent Steve Kroft to report this week for 60 Minutes. As they traveled all through the island, the dire standing on the bottom shocked them most.  

“It’s really still in an emergency mode,” Karzis says. “They haven’t graduated into a relief mode or recovery.”


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Héctor Pesquera, a retired particular agent accountable for the F.B.I. workplace in Miami, is now directing emergency providers and public security for the island. On the printed, he tells Kroft that the primary precedence is restoring energy.

“The electrical grid, to me, is the backbone of all these things starting to come up,” he tells Kroft. “Until we get this grid thing resolved, it’s going to be very slow. It’s the backbone of everything.”


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The ripple results from the island’s energy issues are paralyzing the island’s society. Without electrical energy in most areas, workplaces are shuttered, so many individuals have misplaced their jobs, and with them, their incomes. And there is no method for many individuals to entry their money; banks are closed and ATMs do not work. Without energy, the water remedy facility would not operate, and with out working water, many voters should depend on bottled water to drink and rainwater to clean their garments.

Inland, spouts of PVC pipe linked to mountain creeks jut out into the road. In the remoted mountain city of Utuado, individuals congregate across the flowing water — water that has possible been contaminated — and use it to clean their hair and garments. They bucket the water to take it residence and use it for his or her bathrooms.


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Phone calls are unreliable. “If you have cell service, you’re lucky to have it,” Weingart says. “It could go out at any minute.” When the 60 Minutes group did discover service, their calls would normally drop. When a name really went via, it might generally be diverted to a stranger’s telephone as a result of the traces acquired crossed.

Living with out lights, WiFi, refrigeration, tv, and air-con, is not only a primitive lifestyle — it is costly.

“Money’s not coming in,” Weingart explains. “And people are constantly spending money just to stay afloat. So you’re not working, you’re not getting a paycheck, and you’re probably spending upwards of $1,000 on fuel each month to keep your generator running.”


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For many Puerto Ricans, the most effective reply to their day by day wrestle is to go away. Some are calling it the JetBlue resolution. Since Puerto Ricans are American residents, the one transaction essential to maneuver to the mainland U.S., the place many have household, is a aircraft ticket.

“People are really prideful that they’re from Puerto Rico, and that this is their home,” Weingart says. “[But] I met a lot of families who were making the decision to leave for good, mostly because they’re not making any money, and they don’t see a way forward. Their homes were destroyed. Their cars were destroyed. They lost their jobs in the wake of the storm.”

More than 100,00zero individuals have left the island since Maria struck on September 20th, and the governor’s workplace estimates lots of them will transfer to the mainland completely.


60 Minutes producers Michael Karzis, Graham Messick, and correspondent Steve Kroft

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“That’s a huge number,” Karzis says. “These are folks, for the most part, that were teetering on the edge of their decision to stay or go, and Maria seems to have pushed them over the edge.”

Every day on the San Juan airport, households tearfully break aside, bidding goodbye to the members heading off to start out a brand new life on the mainland. As public faculties reopened in San Juan, dad and mom got here by to request their kids’s faculty data so their children might enroll in faculties in locations like Florida and New York.


A household saying goodbye on the San Juan airport.

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At one elementary faculty, affiliate producer Vanessa Fica met a household relocating to Boston, the place they intend to stay in a shelter. For them, a Boston shelter is best than staying in San Juan, the place they have been subsisting on Coca-Cola and potato chips.

“And that’s just the reality that a lot of people have there,” Fica says. “It’s just no hope.”


60 Minutes affiliate producers Vanessa Fica and Jack Weingart

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But what does this exodus imply to an already crippled island?  

“It means a territory, which is already fiscally circling the drain, having the tax base erode even further,” Karzis says. “It does not help that you’re losing otherwise qualified professionals or a labor force that is dwindling. And what you’re left with are folks that are older, and are collecting pensions at this point, or young kids.”

Almost seven weeks after the storm, producer Graham Messick says, it looks like some Puerto Ricans have given up.

“They’d lost hope,” he says. “And it’s like a state of suspended animation. People were just waiting for the power to come on. There’s just nothing to do. It’s boring. It’s hot. It’s uncomfortable.”

“And there are no answers. “

The video above was produced by Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton and Sarah Shafer Prediger.

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