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Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR


Entering the Cacao community is a challenge. Highway 157 is being cleared after major landslides caused by Hurricane Fiona blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

Entering the Cacao community is a challenge. Highway 157 is being cleared after major landslides caused by Hurricane Fiona blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

OROCOVIS, Puerto Rico – Hundreds of thousands of people across Puerto Rico are still waiting for water and electricity to be restored after Hurricane Fiona. Fiona was only a Category 1 hurricane when it struck. But it moved slowly and dropped more than 30 inches of rain in some areas, and flooding washed out roads, isolating some mountain communities.

In the town of Orocovis, a mudslide blocked a main road, making it difficult for residents to access food, water and other basic necessities. A local construction company quickly got to work, removing tons of dirt, vegetation and rocks blocking the road. By Thursday, only one lane had been cleared allowing some trucks containing food, water and fuel to reach the town.

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

Residents of Orocovis line up for food and other supplies distributed by a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and Family Department.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Other roads in the area collapsed when the ground beneath them washed away. In Cacao, a small community of houses scattered in the mountains, hundreds of people were stranded when the road connecting them to Orocovis collapsed. Local authorities saw the damage, declared it unsafe and closed the road. But locals quickly convinced them to open a temporary road so they could at least get into Orocovis.

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

Residents of Orocovis line up at the Community Sports Coliseum. People like Jesus “Tito” Colón use any type of container – gallon jugs, cisterns – to fill themselves with drinking water.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

Residents of Orocovis line up at the Community Sports Coliseum. People like Jesus “Tito” Colón use any type of container – gallon jugs, cisterns – to fill themselves with drinking water.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Herbert Acosta, a civil engineer was part of the team working Thursday to stabilize the road. “Right now we’re putting barriers on both sides to make it safe,” he said. But he fears more rain could cause further flooding and lead to a total collapse of the road. “We’re going to watch it every day,” he said, “to see how it is.”

To compound the isolation, Orocovis is one of many communities in Puerto Rico still waiting for power and water to be restored. At the community’s small sports stadium, people line up to fill jugs, barrels and cisterns with clean water pumped from tanker trucks. Residents say it’s a familiar routine. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, some were left without water service for six months.

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

The Puerto Rico Department of Family and National Guard distribute food at an intersection in the community of Orocovis.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

The Puerto Rico Department of Family and National Guard distribute food at an intersection in the community of Orocovis.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

The Puerto Rico National Guard traveled to isolated communities, distributing food and other supplies to residents struggling to get to town. Corporal Alexis Cruz said, “We’re just trying to spread some happiness among all this mess.”

Puerto Rico’s water authority says service has been restored to more than two-thirds of its customers. The island’s electricity company says around 40% of its customers now have electricity. But in Orocovis, residents are skeptical of assurances from the governor and other leaders that electricity and water service will soon be restored. While waiting for water at the sports stadium, Marcelino Cassiano repeated an often heard refrain: “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

Four days after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, it is still slow to cross many parts of the island. First responders drive cautiously on National Road 155 which runs from Coamo to Vega Baja through Orocovis and Morovis, which is currently being cleared after landslides blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Puerto Rico still hampered by Hurricane Fiona without power or water: NPR

Four days after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, it is still slow to cross many parts of the island. First responders drive cautiously on National Road 155 which runs from Coamo to Vega Baja through Orocovis and Morovis, which is currently being cleared after landslides blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

NPR News

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