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Could a Faster Communications Recovery in Puerto Rico Save Lives?

22 September 2018

On Thursday, exactly one year since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, Torres is still in Orlando.

The storm knocked out power and communications to virtually all of island's 3.2 million residents, while destroying the homes of thousands.

For months, the USA government contended that the official death toll from the hurricane and the three months afterward was 64. Just as other Americans have received during disaster recovery, the Commission and other government entities owe the people of Puerto Rico real aid, data collection, and recovery efforts that match the unprecedented levels of devastation during this critical time in the island's history. Despite blue tarps still covering missing roofs on thousands of homes, and citizens living with unstable access to electricity or clean drinking water, little help has arrived from cash-strapped local governments or the Trump administration.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite of Hurricane Maria as it reached its most powerful point on September 20, 2017, just as it reached Puerto Rico.

Maria Torres, husband Jose Cruz and daughter, Gladys Cruz-Torres, from left, sit in another daughter's home last fall after their home in Puerto Rico was damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Across the island, people marked the one-year anniversary with gatherings large and small, solemn and anger-tinged - and at times, even hopeful.

In San Juan, the crowd of worshippers gathered at the 230-year-old San Cristobal fort sang and prayed along with pastors and musicians on stage, with music echoing through the fort's heavy walls as the sun slowly sank into the sea behind them.

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"You worry, because you think it's going to fly off like it did before", she said.

"I evaluated everything they did, and it is my view that it was a very well-done estimate of the death toll numbers", Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Thursday during an interview with CNN.

In recent weeks, Puerto Ricans have become increasingly angry and frustrated as President Donald Trump touted what he said was a "fantastic" response to Hurricane Maria, calling it an "unsung success" as he denied the official death toll without presenting any evidence. "This hit us hard".

For Carson, the disbursement of HUD funds "paves the way for a speedy, long-term recovery", but he warned that the "path forward is challenging, and will be measured not in months, but rather in years". Since the storm, that has shot up to 98 percent, she said.

U.S. Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson was also on the island, where he was expected to give an update on his agency response efforts to Hurricane Maria.

Valentin is an art teacher at Lehigh Elementary and said the new job could not have come at a better time.

Could a Faster Communications Recovery in Puerto Rico Save Lives?