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  • A couple boards up the door of their beachfront house as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico August 28, 2019.

    A couple boards up the door of their beachfront house as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico August 28, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 August 2019
Opinion

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez said that preparations for the storm were more than 90 percent complete.

Puerto Rico is bracing for Hurricane Dorian, as it gathered strength over the U.S. Virgin Islands to become a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday, and is expected to hit the eastern part of the island with heavy wind and rain.

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By the time Dorian hits Florida late on Sunday or Monday, it could be a major hurricane, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC). For the time being, Dorian is approaching Puerto Rico from the southeast although it is blowing winds considerably less powerful than when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017.

The agency said Dorian was blowing maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) on St. Thomas island in the early afternoon.

Two years ago, Puerto Rico was recovering from Hurricane Irma when Maria struck, destroying infrastructure and leaving much of the Caribbean island without electricity for months.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez, who took office this month after political turmoil led to the resignation of her predecessor, said Tuesday that preparations for the storm were more than 90 percent complete.

Infrastructure ranging from electric power lines to telecommunications and banking networks were in better shape than they had been in 2017, she added. Puerto Rican public schools closed on Wednesday and public workers have been instructed to stay home as well. 

After approving an emergency declaration for the island late on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump took a swipe at the U.S. territory saying that "Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either incompetent or corrupt." 

The head of state was heavily criticized for a tepid response to the 2017 hurricanes that battered Puerto Rico, for being slow to recognize the extent of the devastation and in providing disaster relief to the island of more than three million people. 

Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from back-to-back hurricanes in 2017, which killed about 3,000 people just months after it filed for bankruptcy. Trump later disputed Puerto Rico's official death toll.

This week, Democrats in the U.S. Congress also slammed him for shifting US$271 million earmarked for disaster aid and cyber security to pay for detention facilities and courts for migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) described the shift as "stealing from appropriated funds."

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