Sunday, October 1, 2017

Puerto Rico in Crisis

3 Days after Maria passed

A humanitarian crisis is ongoing in Puerto Rico, and its national government has been far too slow to respond. Some highlights, as I write this:

  • Power is out throughout the island
  • Safe water is a problem
  • The death toll is not yet known
  • It took five days for the territory’s governor to get in touch with the mayors of all towns large enough to have them
  • Children’s hospital has been out of fuel for their generators for days
  • Lines for limited gas create panic
  • Agriculture is decimated for the year--no new crops of any kind for many months
  • The infrastructure is damaged--power lines, water lines, roads, and more
  • People desperate for food and medicine have looted closed drugs stores
  • Opportunistic looters are making the streets unsafe
  • Dangerous prisoners have escaped a storm-damaged prison
  • People rushing home to loved ones are being price gouged by airlines
  • For nearly a week hospitals did not have running water

And I hate to be a doomsayer on this, but I know there could be more to come. For instance, what if one dead body in a stream was a person with a communicable disease? An epidemic disease is possible. I'm not wishing for it. I'm dreading it.

Because of a lack of leadership from the White House, people finally went around that roadblock to help. The Mayor of New York organized shipments of supplies. Individuals begged FEMA and Health Corps workers to act anyway, even without orders from the top. And many did.

Most of my readers live in a safe place, a place where they can rely on police or fire coming to help. Certainly if there were a disaster, they’d see evidence of rescue workers right away. Puerto Rico residents waited five days before much happened at all. Five days without stores open. Five days without hot food. Five days without communication, not knowing if the water coming from the tap was safe to bathe in or not. It’s hot and muggy there as well, which must make everything seem so much worse.

I write disaster novels as entertainment, but I never want to see a disaster happen. And my heart goes out to my fellow Americans. I’ve donated money--including money to the American Library Association, to help rebuild and restock libraries there and in the USVI, when the immediate crisis is over. Donate to safe, known places: UNICEF, Save the Children, The Red Cross all have funds for Maria.

I’m ashamed of how late my federal government acted to save its own citizens. And poor towns in Texas still have terrible problems and dangerous pollution from Harvey. I guess this is the future we have to look forward to unless we are filthy rich. Very sad indeed.

It also serves as a warning to us all. We cannot necessarily rely on our governments, which may be in a crisis of whatever nature themselves. We have to take care of ourselves.

So I’m thinking “three days of food and water” may no longer be enough to keep on hand. Have a five-day supply on hand at all times for those disasters we can’t anticipate, like tornadoes, earthquakes, and power outages. If you are in the way of a hurricane, if one seems remotely likely to hit you in ten days, start buying extra supplies for ten or fourteen days that far in advance. If you can afford a hybrid car, that would help evacuate you when gasoline runs out. (You can still get 100 miles away from a dangerous coastal area on your electric charge, and as all-electric cars continue to improve, one day, they’ll take you over 500 miles on one charge). And a spare, portable solar panel and battery pack might see you through many days of power outages--not to live a comfy suburban life with TV and cold drinks, but to have the necessities and communication capability you’ll so desperately want.

lines for gas were 4-5 miles long

My heart goes out to the people of Puerto Rico. I wish I could do more to help them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

moderated twice a week, so please be patient!