The death toll from Hurricane Maria has risen to 48 in Puerto Rico, the territory’s Department of Public Safety said Saturday.
Puerto Ricans still face a daily struggle for food, water and other necessities while coping with the devastation to their homes and businesses more than three weeks after the powerful hurricane slammed ashore on the US commonwealth.
Among the recent deaths was a patient unable to get to dialysis treatment on time, and another person complaining of chest pains died after bad road conditions delayed a trip to the hospital, the department said.
The number of deaths may rise, with about 117 people unaccounted for after last month’s hurricane.
Tens of thousands have fled Puerto Rico since Maria hit September 20. But for many of the millions remaining, the hunt for basic necessities is never-ending.
More than 1.2 million people are without potable water. Some people line up daily to fill up buckets with water from tank trucks, while others collect water from mountain streams.
One of those people is Adrian Santiago, who lives near Naranjito, a mountain town in central Purto Rico. Santiago is unemployed after the storm so he collects water and sells it to his neighbors.
They use it for showers, washing clothes and cleaning.
It’s not fit to drink.
Much restoration to be done
Power outrages are widespread. Nearly 85% of the island lacks electricity, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The government has prioritized getting the power back on in hospitals and other important facilities, Gov. Richard Rossello said Saturday.
Many communities remain cut off, with roads blocked and no phone service.
About 19,000 civilian and military personnel are supporting the federal relief mission, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Army Corps of Engineers is installing power generators and temporary roofs to damaged structures.
FEMA approved a $70 million assistance package for the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority for emergency repairs.
Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan promised additional funding for Puerto Rico’s long-term rebuilding and said Congress was committed to the island for the “long haul.”
Ryan surveyed storm-ravaged parts of the island from a helicopter one day after the House of Representatives approved a $36.5 billion disaster aid package for victims in Puerto Rico as well as resources for those in Texas, Florida and the US Virgin Islands still recovering from Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey.
“This isn’t the last aid package,” Ryan told reporters in San Juan.
“This is the second in more to come. … When we get that final analysis, the administration will submit yet again to Congress a request for another aid package to respond to these longer-term problems.”