Sunday, September 24, 2017

$ for Pensions, No $ for Infrastructure “experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”


Guardian |  Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico on Saturday, as the island tried to recover from a battering by hurricane Maria. Local officials praised the Trump administration’s response but also called for the emergency loosening of rules long blamed for condemning the US territory to second-class economic status.

In the north-west of the island, people began returning to their homes after a spillway eased pressure on a dam that cracked after more than 1ft of rain fell in the wake of the hurricane. Though water continued to pour out of rain-swollen Lake Guajataca, the dam had not burst by Saturday night.
 
Upstream of the towns of Quebradillas and Isabela, the state of the dam had prompted stern official warnings from Governor Ricardo Rossello and the US National Weather Service (NWS). Federal officials said Friday that 70,000 people would have to be evacuated, although Javier Jimenez, mayor of the nearby town of San Sebastian, said he believed the number was far smaller. Secretary of Public Affairs Ramon Rosario said about 300 families were in harm’s way.

The NWS extended a flash flood watch for communities along the rain-swollen Guajataca River until 2pm local time on Sunday. If the dam failed, the NWS warned, the flooding would be life-threatening. “Stay away or be swept away,” it said.

The governor said there was “significant damage” to the dam and authorities believed it could give way at any moment. “We don’t know how long it’s going to hold,” Rossello said. “The integrity of the structure has been compromised in a significant way.”

Some residents nonetheless returned to their homes on Saturday as water levels in the reservoir began to sink. “There were a lot of people worried and crying, but that’s natural, because the reservoir was about to break through,” said Maria Nieves, 43. “They couldn’t open the spillway until later in the night.”

The 345-yard dam, which was built around 1928, holds back a man-made lake covering about two square miles. More than 15in of rain from Maria fell on the surrounding mountains.

The aid effort quickened with the opening of the island’s main port in the capital, San Juan, allowing 11 ships to bring in 1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food. Dozens more shipments are expected in upcoming days.