The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is reeling after the Category 5 Hurricane Irma passed by to its north, giving the archipelago a beating with torrential rains and wind gusts up to 185 mph. And the severe weather is not over.
30-foot waves have been slamming the coastline, and a foot of rain is expected to fall on some part of Puerto Rico’s main island on Thursday, according to the Washington Examiner. The few photos that have come out of the island show severe flooding on neighborhood streets.
On top of that, 70 percent of the territory’s population of 3.4 million is out of power. Before the storm hit, power officials warned that power could be out for months, and that may now be the case. Fewer than half of the hospitals on the islands have emergency generators.
Puerto Rico, which is only about three times the size of Rhode Island and just as densely populated, has been struggling with massive amounts of debt. It has a 45% poverty rate, twice that of Mississippi’s, according to Quartz. Storm recovery will be incredibly difficult.
President Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico. As bad as the destruction has been, the president acknowledged it could have been worse.
"Puerto Rico escaped. It could have been far worse, they really escaped the brunt,” Trump said, according to NBC News.
A couple residents interview by NBC agreed, saying that as bad as Irma was, 1989’s Hurricane Hugo was “far, far worse.” But with the coming rain, the aftermath could be much more severe, like it was with Hurricane Harvey.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the initial destruction was greater. The small island of Barbuda, which is part of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, has been described as “barely habitable,” according to the New York Times.
95 percent of buildings on the island of about 1,600 people have been damaged or destroyed. On the other hand, nearby Antigua sustained less destruction than expected.
Barbuda “is literally rubble,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
At least one infant has been reported killed on the island, but the death toll is expected the rise. Reports from the island have been slow in coming due to a communications blackout that lasted for hours.
Browne said, “Hurricane Irma would have been easily the most powerful hurricane to have stormed through the Caribbean, and it is extremely unfortunate that Barbuda was right in its path.”
Other islands like St. Martin, St. Barthélemy, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands also saw widespread devastation. Meanwhile, tropical storm-force winds are expected to hit Florida by Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Please pray for the hurricane victims and those in the path of the oncoming storm! A popular surfer has died while trying to surf waves a generated by Hurricane Irma.