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Update: Hurricane Fiona and Puerto Rico, one week later (9/26/22)

Nearly five years to the date after Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico, the island was again ravaged by Hurricane Fiona. The irony of this second hurricane is that it came after the many years of supposed preparation for another hurricane where, in fact, it was stated that the government had learned the lessons of being unprepared and was now ready for another major storm.

Tragically, this did not turn out well. Its fragile power grid was not adequately prepared to confront another storm, though it had plenty of time in readiness. Equally dismal, the island had not properly utilized large amounts of federal funds in preparation that had come FEMA, AARP, CDBG-disaster recovery, among other U.S. sources of funding. Why? Beyond ineptness, island politics dominated funds to the degree that nearly 80% of available funds went unused, with certain amounts returned to the federal government for lack of trained or competent personnel to undertake the task for island recovery.

A case in point is that while Fiona barely skimmed the southern coast and only entered the southwestern tip of Cabo Rojo as a Category 1 hurricane, this was enough to cause the total collapse of the power system within hours, rendering the entire island without power. Just hours later, Fiona’s landfall on the Dominican Republic entered as a Category 3 hurricane but only knocked out the immediate sector impacted, barely shutting 7% of the island’s power. Embarrassingly, this demonstrated that Puerto Rico’s devastation had more to do with preparedness than worry about the strength of the storm.

It is now over one week since Fiona, and nearly half the island of PR remains without power. We will keep readers informed as to the continuing aftermath.

Update: Fiona’s impact on Puerto Rico’s agriculture

Taken from: La Maraña supports farmers and fishers in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Fiona

San Juan, Puerto Rico (September 2022): La Maraña advocates for food sovereignty as a sustainable alternative to remain in Puerto Rico. Recently it’s been exposed that to survive in during the current climate and political context, islanders must promote food sovereignty as a fundamental goal.

After Hurricane Fiona and as an effort to support the sector that is in charge of the arduous task of feeding, La Maraña has launched the “Fondo de Soberanía Alimentaria” (Food Sovereignty Funds, in English). Its goal is to aid farmers and fishermen who suffered losses due to this natural disaster. The Fund consists of two main stages: 1) economic relief and 2) work brigades. During this first phase, Maraña identified 13 farmers and fishermen that had been severely impacted by atmospheric disasters located in the municipalities of Comerío, Orocovis, San Lorenzo, Camuy, Ponce, Lares, Adjuntas, Lajas, Cabo Rojo, and Aguadilla.

Five years after the passing of hurricanes Irma and María, Hurricane Fiona highlights once again that islanders find themselves in seasons of uncertainty regarding essential services—water, electricity and, above all, food. In Puerto Rico we import approximately 85% of our food, of which 64% comes from the United States.

La Maraña, Corp. is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 that focuses on the recovery and just transition of communities through participatory design and the inclusion of citizen participation in these processes.


 


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