While the Demented Cheese-Grit-in-Chief’s war against black athletes dominates headlines and social media feeds in the United States, Puerto Rico faces an increasingly desperate situation after Hurricane Maria devastated the island Thursday. Supplies and aid are headed to the island from the U.S. mainland Monday, but without power and the ability to communicate (CNN reports that 95 percent of wireless sites are out of service), ensuring that aid reaches the most vulnerable Puerto Ricans will prove difficult.
Here’s an update on where things stand now:
Major Dam Threatens to Burst
Among the most pressing concerns facing the island right now is the state of the Guajataca Dam, a major structure in the northwest of the island that could collapse at any minute, according to multiple reports.
According to CNN, the dam is already releasing water after sustaining infrastructure damage. The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Roselló, told the cable news outlet that because the dam is composed of concrete and soil, erosion could cause the dam to break. If so, the Daily Beast reports, 70,000 Puerto Ricans could be besieged by an estimated 11 billion gallons of water.
For perspective, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated that it had pumped about 250 billion gallons of water out of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Government officials knocked on doors in the area around the Guajataca Dam Friday, telling residents to evacuate.
Lack of Medical Supplies, Power and Communications
CNN reports that none of the three hospitals it visited had running water. The outlet also reported that the hospitals only had days of medical supplies left. Few hospitals have working generators, according to the report.
A devastating report by the Washington Post chronicled the difficulty Puerto Ricans are facing in holding on until more supplies arrive. Residents caring for asthmatic and diabetic family members are running low on prescriptions. And without power, the hot weather could make matters worse, especially for the elderly.
The Post reports that many Puerto Ricans are without cash, gasoline, food or clean water. Even worse, power and basic services may not be available for months in certain parts of the island.
With its airports and harbors severely damaged, as well as a number of major highways, Puerto Rico is more isolated than ever—making it all the more challenging for an island in urgent need of aid to provide for its most vulnerable residents, according to the report.
Help Is on the Way
An estimated 4,000 members of the U.S. Army Reserves have been sent to Puerto Rico to help with the recovery effort, according to CNN. The Post reports that six commercial cargo ships have been sent to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The ships contain food, water and generators.
Additional resources are also on the way, including 124,000 gallons of fuel for Puerto Rico alone, according to the Post report.
President Donald Trump has reportedly pledged aid to the U.S. territory, and Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long said he would be in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday.
Still, Puerto Rico—which was grappling with a debt crisis before Maria hit—will be reliant on federal aid to help it recover. The problem: The territory has no official, dedicated voice in Washington, D.C., and Gov. Rosselló has voiced his concern that Congress, once the first shot of emergency relief has been given, will abandon the island.
“We still need some more help. This is clearly a critical disaster in Puerto Rico,” Rosselló told the Post. “It can’t be minimized, and we can’t start overlooking us now that the storm passed, because the danger lurks.”