It has been more than a hundred days since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and still about half of Puerto Ricans are without power in their homes.
Imagine being a US citizen and not being able to get power in your house or apartment for over three months. Not being able to use your lights, your stove, your refrigerator, your heating or air conditioning – being stuck in the middle ages. That’s the situation for more than 1.5 million Americans living in Puerto Rico today.
According to the New York Times, some parts of Puerto Rico may not get power back until the spring.
The scale of the problem is admittedly huge. The devastating hurricane damaged a large portion of the island’s 2,400 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution lines, and 342 substations.
Even before the storm hit, Puerto Rico was on the brink of bankruptcy, and the weak economy has only been damaged further by Hurricane Maria. Tourism has dropped to virtually zero, and many businesses are still without power. In addition, some hospitals and senior living centers were without power, which contributed to a substantial increase in the Puerto Rican death rate after the hurricane ended.
And the problems don’t end there. The government has had a difficult time getting passports and other vital documents to their rightful owners in the aftermath of the hurricane. Apparently, as a result of the damage, about 5,000 passports, birth certificates, and other government documents that were being processed at the time of the hurricane were suddenly unable to be distributed according to the standard means. As a result, some people who may have wanted to leave their homes until the power returned may have been trapped in Puerto Rico.
The good news is that, of the original 5,000 passports and documents, only 600 remain to be distributed. If you know someone in Puerto Rico who has been unable to obtain a passport that they applied for before Hurricane Maria, please call the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778.
Of course, even with passports, many Puerto Ricans don’t have the means or connections to go anywhere else during this crisis. Whether bound by work, their families, personal commitments, or financial restrictions, many people will have no choice but to live in the dark until this terrible situation is finally resolved.
If you would like to support the victims of Hurricane Maria and help Puerto Rico get back on its feet, you can find a useful list of charities and service organizations that are currently at work in Puerto Rico here.
For more information, please feel free to give our office a call any time. We are happy to offer any travel help that we can. As always, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help with expedited passports, last minute visas, and the latest travel information from around the world.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.