Robert Rodriguez (left) and Josue Mendez collect water from a mountain creek on a road to the town of Utuado, Puerto Rico. Photo: Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

By Patricia Mazzei and Omaya Sosa Pascual
19 October 2017

MAUNABO, Puerto Rico (Center for Investigative Journalism) – Before Hurricane Maria tore through the rest of this island, it came to Mayor Jorge Márquez’s home.

The storm ripped through improvised plastic shutters, shook the windows and sent his panicked family, including his grandchildren, scurrying to a bathroom to hide. For four hours, as the fiercest of Maria’s winds roared through his mountain town in southeast Puerto Rico, Márquez kept the wind from forcing itself in by pushing a dining table hard against the front door.

At the end, when the winds finally died down, he stepped outside to glimpse at the damage to the town he’s run for nearly two decades. Tattered roofs littered the ground. Snapped trees mangled power lines. The local hospital was lost. The town’s funeral home was gone.

The easy part of the storm was over. The real agony had yet to begin.

“Everything we’ve built over 16 years, destroyed in a single day,” he said Tuesday, pausing to fight back fresh tears.

A month has passed since Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, and the island continues to operate in emergency mode, struggling to do even the basics: save lives, protect property, provide drinking water, turn on the lights. Time ticks away in a hazy state of permanent disaster, a catastrophe born from the worst storm to cross Puerto Rico in 85 years — and of a slow recovery by the federal, state, and local governments. [more]

‘Days were lost’: Why Puerto Rico is still suffering a month after Hurricane Maria

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