With nearly 400,000 people in Puerto Rico still without power, the island faces one of the most prolonged blackouts in the United States history.
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The United States Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency, responsible for repairing the power grids in Puerto Rico awarded large contracts to two companies, Fluor Corporation and PowerSecure.
According to the New York Times, over 6,000 workers were charged with repairing transmission and distribution lines across the island, with half of them assigned to work directly with the Corps of Engineers. However, according to the report, 1,000 power workers left the island at the end of February.
Fluor still has 1,600 people in Puerto Rico, but their contract is coming to an end, and PowerSecure is also expected to wrap up operation by April 7, the Corps said.
The hurricane has not only damaged buildings, power grids, and homes but also took down, or destroyed an estimated 480 million trees, or a third of all forests on the island.
"In some areas at the top of the mountains it might take more than 50 or 100 years" to recover, said Grizelle Gonzalez, a scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, a program of the U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles Times reported.
Last week a federal judge also approved a US$300 million loan to the Puerto Rico power company, PREPA, after it threatened to collapse earlier this month.
“The approved financing will provide PREPA with a much-needed lifeline while safeguarding the operation in the near term,” Gerardo Portela, director of Puerto Rico’s financial authority said in a statement.
Alexis Santos, a demographer at Pennsylvania State University who based his analysis of the number of deaths from the figures obtained from the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, told the Los Angeles Times, the total number of average deaths since Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. colony, between September and November has been 1,230.
"It’s normal for there to be family conflicts, but when you add the stress of more than five months without power, without food, living patterns change … it makes it harder for people to manage daily life," Julio Santana Mariño, a psychology professor at Universidad Carlos Albizu in Puerto Rico, told local newspaper El Nuevo Día.
The numbers also indicate a rise in suicide rates on the island, as the death toll continued into November, with nearly 155 deaths recorded, Los Angeles Times reported.
Three months after the storm, the crisis line run by Puerto Rico's Department of Health received 3,050 calls, a 246 percent increase during the same time last year, a recent report by the health department’s Commission for Suicide Prevention, pointed out.
"With the limited information available to the academic and policy community, we can say the humanitarian crisis resulting from Hurricane María continued affecting the people of Puerto Rico after October," Santos said.
Already struggling with a debt crisis, devastated by the hurricane, and according to reports also battling with a rise in suicide rate, in October, Trump shirked responsibility and said that United States can't help Puerto Rico "forever" and reminded the U.S. colony of a massive debt, adding it "owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with."
The same month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has also refused to extend the waiver for the Jones Act, a 97-year-old shipping law that prevents non-U.S. ships from bringing cargo to and from U.S. harbors.