OKLAHOMA CITY – While a U.S. territory continues to rebuild after being hit by a Category 4 hurricane this year, a local company is heading to the island to help.
After Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in September, the island was devastated with flooding and strong winds.
Three weeks later, most of the island was left without basic services such as power and running water. Hospitals throughout the cash-strapped island of 3.4 million people were running low on medicine and fuel.
So far, the official death toll stands at 64 but the island’s governor is asking for an official review to determine if more deaths are associated with the storm.
Since then, recovery has been slow.
Though signs of progress are clearly visible in San Juan and greenery has returned, traces of destruction also clearly remain. Snapped trees and mangled debris are apparent throughout the city.
And though an Energy Department official said Tuesday that nearly 70% of the island’s power generation capacity is back online, locals say that does not reflect the number of homes that are receiving power, as infrastructure remains damaged. The federal government says data on the number of residents receiving power is no longer available.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson pledged that his agency would see the recovery through to the end. As the emergency response transitions into recovery, HUD will begin to take on more responsibility as it distributes Community Block Development Grants for Disaster Recovery.
The agency is waiting on FEMA to finish assessing needs on the island in order to set a total amount for those grants and then will offer guidance as they are spent.
“We are in this for the long haul,” Carson told a group of six local mayors and vice mayors. “Early on, you’ll see a lot of FEMA, but in the long haul, you’ll see a lot of HUD. And we’re going to be with you for the long haul. It’s going to be very difficult but I’ve been so impressed but what I’ve seen already.”
Now, an organization from Oklahoma is heading to the island to help.
OG&E announced on Tuesday that teams will be heading to Puerto Rico to support an effort to fully restore power there.
Officials say that 48 trucks will head to Louisiana before they are sent to Puerto Rico. About 50 crew members will head to the island in the middle of next month.