BY SABRINA GARONE
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with wind speeds of 155 mph, causing catastrophic damage to the island. The Category 4 storm was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century.
Many students within the Sacred Heart community have relatives living in Puerto Rico that have been affected by the storm.
“The first day after the hurricane, we didn’t have communication with any of our family members. We were all very fearful,” said senior Diana Lento. “As of right now, almost all of my family members are accounted for, but many have lost their homes.”
“I have family that live on the southern part of the island, and as far as I know they are safe,” said sophomore Annabeth Gullo. “While they are safe, it is devastating to know that they are still without power and unable to contact us on their own.”
Almost one month later, 85 percent of Puerto Rican citizens are still without power and 40 percent lack fresh water. The death toll has risen to 45, and 110 people are still unaccounted for.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 10,000 federal officials are on the ground working to restore Puerto Rican communities by clearing roadways, re-establishing power, and delivering meals.
On the mainland, the White House has been highly criticized for its slow response to the hurricane and prioritization of other political matters.
“The U.S government has definitely not done enough to help with this disaster,” said Gullo. “Many Americans are not even aware that Puerto Rico lies in our jurisdiction, and therefore are unaware of the magnitude of this disaster.”
On Oct. 3, 13 days after the storm’s landfall, President Trump visited Puerto Rico to survey the damages and assist in the distribution of supplies.
While at a news conference with Puerto Rican officials, Trump made controversial remarks on the amount of money spent on storm recovery.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he stated. “We’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, but that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives.”
Trump also sparked controversy with a string of Tweets addressing the budget.
“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever,” he tweeted. “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend.”
“Trump has acted atrociously…blaming them for their current financial status when there are people suffering,” said Lento. “How could the President talk about citizens like this? It is just very sad that he has no sympathy.”
On Oct. 10, 21 days after the storm, the White House asked Congress for a $4.9 billion disaster assistance loan.
“Puerto Ricans have been in trouble for a while with America’s inattention, but this is an opportunity for us to help them when they need it most,” said Gullo. “We need to focus on doing just that.”