Maria fallout lays bare Puerto Rico’s sharp income divide

Bloomberg reports: A humanitarian crisis began to take hold in Puerto Rico on Saturday, three days after Hurricane Maria hammered the commonwealth, and its most vulnerable citizens were the most exposed.

Health-sector workers said the island was nearing a critical moment as some care organizations ran low on fuel for generators. Maritza Lamoso, executive director at Residence Senior Living in the Puerto Nuevo section of San Juan, said she’d put out 20 calls for emergency diesel and been visited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. But as of Saturday afternoon, she still had no fuel.

“If the diesel doesn’t arrive today, I’m going to have to start removing people,” she said from the lobby of the center, adding that two other facilities in the same network were in similar circumstances.

Governor Ricardo Rossello, who met with mayors and state and federal officials in San Juan on Saturday, said agencies were rushing to deliver fuel to hospitals, bring water, food and other aid to isolated communities, and evacuate families living near a failing dam in the northwest. The government couldn’t begin to estimate the financial toll, he said, but it would be more than the billions of dollars in damage caused by Hurricane George in 1998.

“This is, without a doubt, the biggest catastrophe in modern history for Puerto Rico in terms of the damage to infrastructure and in terms of damage to the island as a whole,” he said. “Our consideration is not a fiscal consideration. It’s restoring people’s security and restoring normalcy.”

On an island marked by sharp income disparities, there was a notable ratcheting up of private security by those at the top. [Continue reading…]

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