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Puerto Rico: 85 Percent Still Without Power; People Drinking Dirty Water With Animal Urine; Hospitals Struggling

Puerto Rico: 85 Percent Still Without Power; People Drinking Dirty Water With Animal Urine; Hospitals Struggling

Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

Puerto Rico has become “generator island,” as most residents of the commonwealth still lack electricity, running water and healthcare nearly a month after Hurricane Maria.

The New York Times painted a grim picture of life on the island.

“Because of the electricity situation, a lot of people died, and are still dying,” Lisandra Figueroa told The Times. “You can’t get sick now.”

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Figueroa’s father, Harry, died in Caguas, Puerto Rico, this month because there was no oxygen to help him breathe. To add to the horror, the funeral home was unable to embalm the body after it rotted because there was no electricity to run refrigerators.

People Dying

Others are sick or dying because of lack of clean water. Miguel Bastardo Beroa’s kidneys are failing, probably because he drank floodwaters contaminated with bacteria from animal urine, The Times reported.

Beroa is now in the intensive care unit at Doctor’s Hospital in Caguas, which does not have enough fuel to run generators needed to power kidney dialysis machines. Around six people are being treated for leptospirosis, a potentially deadly water borne disease. Officials are encouraging people to drink bottled water, but there is very little of it.

Forty percent of the island’s residents don’t have access to running water. When San Juan resident Iris Diaz went to the CVS Health drugstore in her neighborhood, there was no bottled water.

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The clerk explained that the store had been out of bottle water for three days. Not surprisingly, bottled water has become one of the most sought-after items in Puerto Rico.

No Water or Power

Long lines form every time a bottled water truck pulls up to a store. Some customers were taking water directly off shipping pallets and putting it into their carts at a Walmart, Times reporter Caitlin Dickerson said.

Only one of the 10 stores that Dickerson visited in San Juan on Tuesday had bottled water.

Only 15 percent of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid had been restored last week, The Times reported, meaning that 85 percent of the island was still without power.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo A. Rossello said there is no “estimated date” for when power will be fully restored.

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