It's been exactly one year since Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm, resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths
It’s been exactly one year since Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. The hurricane resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and about $90 billion in damages. Now, a year later, the citizens of Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover.
“We all have some sort of [post traumatic stress disorder]. It’s a trauma,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto told ABC News. “It’s not a shock, it’s a trauma.”
Hurricane Maria made landfall last year on Sept. 20, quickly becoming the most powerful storm of its kind to hit the island since 1932. It crippled the island’s electrical grid and sent thousands fleeing for the mainland. Months after the storm, businesses remained shuttered, according to The National Weather channel.
Thousands of homes are still in need of repair, with residents wondering when fallen trees will be removed from their homes and some sleeping in rain-damaged houses with little or no cover, according to the New York Times.
Efforts to help by the Federal Emergency Management Agency seem to have fallen short.
Although FEMA’s work in Puerto Rico was the longest sustained domestic airborne food and water mission in America’s history, the aid proved to be too little too late, according to the Times. More than one million people requested help from the agency, and 58 percent were denied. The Times found that grants given to survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas were thousands more than that given to struggling Puerto Rico residents.
As many are struggling to survive on the ravaged island, and obtain basic necessities, they are also coping with the loss of friends and family members who died in or after the storm.
Ramón A. Paez Marte, of Canóvanas, told NBC News that at least seven people he knew died in the wake of the hurricane. He spoke of a man in his 30s who worked to rescue stranded elderly residents as the storm left them without food, water or medicine.
“He didn’t even last one month,” Paez Marte told NBC of the young man. “He had a wound and when he dove into the flood waters trying to help people, I guess it caught a really bad infection and they couldn’t cure it.”
Even though some progress is being made — some schools and government offices have reopened — it is still difficult for many of the residents to even talk about the devastating storm.
“I don’t even want to remember it,” Porfirio Guerrero told NBC News. “I still remember spending three consecutive days without eating. There was barely any money for food, the supermarkets were empty. It was horrible.”
Ricardo Lockwood moved to Central Florida in the wake of the hurricane in search of work. He was forced to leave his family behind.
“I had no choice. No choice. I have daughters. I have a family to feed,” he told CBC News, noting that he works as a supply manager for a driving company and sends resources to his family in Puerto Rico. “I miss it. It’s my island. I miss the beach, but we are one hour away from Cocoa. One hour away from Tampa, so, it’s okay.”
On Thursday, dozens gathered for a mass at Parroquia Nuestra Señora De La Piedad to honor those who died in the storm.
“Puerto Rico will never stop crying for them,” said Archbishop Roberto González, who led the mass, according to NBC. “Not counting them, not crying for them, goes against the Christian values. It is insensitive to others’ pain.”
While the island is still working to rebuild, many hotels and tourist attractions have reopened. With that, experts say vacationing on the island is a great way to support Puerto Rico residents.
RELATED VIDEO: Remembering Hurricane Maria: Six Months Later
The tourism industry in Puerto Rico is estimated to employ over 63,500 people and earns 7 percent of the island’s gross national product.
“The tourism industry has recovered, and we are ready and willing and eager to welcome visitors,” Brad Dean, CEO of Discovery Puerto Rico, said, according to USA Today.
“Go to Arecibo, Ponce, Mayagüez, Isabela — these are towns with a lot to offer, so much charm, and beautiful beaches,” Lopez added. “They depend on their local economy to get back on their feet.”